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Full text of "Uncollected poetry and prose, much of which has been but recently discovered, with various early manuscripts now first published"

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From a remarkably lifelike Gutekunst proof given by the poet to 
Mr. Thomas B. Harned, through whose courtesy it is here first 

L ^ ami 

THE t^ 















i 9 2 I 






First Edition 


A vast batch left to oblivion. 

— Whitman 


Since 19 14, when I began work on this book, I have often 
hoped that its appearance might coincide with the centennial of 
the poet's birth, and that it might thus serve as my stone to cast 
upon his cairn, which, I knew, would then swell under the contri- 
butions of many hands. But the World War — strange fulfil- 
ment of the prophecy in Whitman's "Years of the Modern" — 
taking me overseas for a year, delayed the completion of the 
work by so much, and more. Now that it is ready to print, I 
trust the poet will not find the peace of his rest diminished that 
I have added my stone to his grave. And yet I have been 
warned by some who claim special information in the matter 
that Whitman himself would hardly approve of such a work as 
this that I have done. However that may be, Whitman has al- 
ready had his ample say. The autobiographical "Leaves of Grass" 
is, at least for those who have the clue to its meaning, his best in- 
terpretation; but he has also laid a shaping hand upon the bi- 
ographies of Burroughs, and Bucke, and Traubel, and (through 
these and his own often-quoted "Specimen Days") indirectly upon 
all others. There is a sphere for autobiography and another 
sphere for biography. The present volumes, though in no sense 
authorized by Whitman, are indeed far more autobiographical 
than biographical. In fact, they are autobiographical in the 
Whitman sense to a degree greater than the writings which 
he himself preserved. Somewhere — in one of the conversations 
with Horace Traubel — he registered an objection to autobi- 
ographies which, like Rousseau's "Confessions," are deliberately 
planned in retrospect; such books should grow unconsciously, 
he said, like a diary. Now, from 1855 on, Whitman's autobi- 
ography did grow in this manner, keeping tally of his unfolding 
life; that was the principle on which he steadfastly retained in it 
the expression of certain phases of his life even when he had hap- 
pily outgrown the passions which gave them meaning. But so far 
as the real evolution of the man who published the First Edition 
in 1855 is concerned, the record was never collected in any ade- 
quate way by himself; thus his autobiography is of two sorts, 


part retrospective and part introspective. I have compiled these 
volumes in the belief that, however a poet may elect to write 
about himself, the serious student should approach his life 
and work historically, examining both in accurate relation to 
the age in which he lived and wrote. 

For some reason Whitman seems to have preferred that his 
past, particularly the period before 1855 and certain later 
periods, should remain secret except in so far as he himself 
might be willing to illuminate it. That was, of course, the 
privilege of the living poet; but it is as clearly the duty of the 
biographer who writes long after his death to seek in that past, 
and especially in the literary records of that past, the true 
evolution of the man and the writer. There were two probable 
reasons why Whitman thus did his part in intensifying the 
shadow cast upon his youth and young manhood by the dis- 
proportionately brilliant light of those minute chronicles 
written by friends who had known him only in old age: (a) the 
early work of his pen was decidedly inferior and uninspired, 
and (b) Whitman found it congenial and convenient, as have 
most prophets, not only to cast in his lot with the future, but 
also rather sedulously to cultivate the obscurity of his own past. 
Moses must emerge from the desert and Mahomet from his 
mountain in order to obtain a hearing; Whitman followed a 
similar prophetic instinct in his efforts to make a picturesque 
and romantic wilderness of his own early environment. To that 
extent his autobiography as hitherto known is unrealistic. 

But it is more strange that among all the books that have been 
written about Whitman few have approached the study of his 
unique genius in a manner and with a method at once sympa- 
thetic and thorough. The great bulk of the writings preserved 
in this sourcebook appears never to have been examined by Whit- 
man's biographers at all, though such writings were obviously 
the place in which to discover the crescent poet, philosopher, and 
reformer. None of his biographers seems to know that he con- 
tributed to the Hempstead Inquirer, the Long Island Democrat, 
or the Long Island Farmer. I cannot discover that any but a 
few essayists, and they most cursorily, has made a personal ex- 
amination of his contributions, chiefly during his most formative 
years, to the Brooklyn Eagle, Times, or Union, or to the New 
Orleans Crescent, or to the New York Tribune, Evening Post, 
or Daily Graphic. It would seem that not many hours have 
been spent in searching for his war correspondence in the New 


York Times, and students of Whitman have, one and all, been 
unaware that during the early years of the Civil War he 
contributed to the Brooklyn Standard a specially copyrighted 
series of articles on local history that would itself fill a fair- 
sized volume. Most biographers pay their passing respects to 
"Franklin Evans," Whitman's dime novelette, and yet the tales 
"Little Jane" and "The Death of Wind-Foot" have always 
been given erroneous dates of composition notwithstanding 
the fact that they lie imbedded in this much-talked-of, but little- 
read, "tendency" novel. To point out these hiatuses in Whit- 
man biography is not to disparage the work of his biographers 
nor to minimize the importance of the light they have cast upon 
the problems involved. Few, perhaps none, of them have had 
opportunities for examining all the material contained in these 
volumes. And yet it seems to me that the time has come for a 
more thorough study of Whitman origins than any yet recorded. 
It is the attempt of the present publication to assist in the study 
of Whitman through an examination of his earlier and less- 
known writings, unguided by any preconceived notions of his 
youth drawn from his own maturer work or from the familiar 
character of the Camden sage, kindly and dignified but young 
no longer. Whatever value the book may have will therefore 
appear, not when tested by previous conceptions of Whitman's 
growth and character, but when employed as a test of those 
conceptions. If the work that I have done corrects old errors 
or if it substitutes facts for old guesses, my object will, in either 
case, have been accomplished. 

Specifically, my purpose has been to collect all of Whitman's 
magazine publications not found in his "Complete Prose" and 
to select from his countless newspaper stories, book reviews, 
editorials, criticisms of art, music, drama, etc., such as have 
particular biographical or literary value, with such others as 
may be needed fairly to indicate his thought and style of com- 
position in each stage of his pre-poetic career. The volumes 
contain also the first publication of a considerable number of 
Whitman manuscripts which possess unusual value in the study 
of the genesis of his poetry. The Whitman notebooks are too 
numerous, and in some cases too illegible, to be presented here 
in their entirety; I have, however, included without omission 
or abridgment those which are the most important from the 
point of view of the present collection, i.e., those antedating 
1855, and from the later ones I have extracted whatever seemed 


to throw new or important light on Whitman problems, bio- 
graphical or critical. The complete set of these notebooks is 
now available to the student in the Library of Congress. . . . 
The only Whitman compositions known to me which, though 
falling under the principle of selection just stated, are not here in- 
cluded are his contributions to certain newspapers, like the 
Brooklyn Freeman, of which diligent search has as yet failed 
in locating any files or numbers, and a few manuscripts (such as 
"An American Primer/* "Diary in Canada," "Lafayette in 
Brooklyn," and "Criticism: An Essay") which have been pub- 
lished in fairly accessible booklets since the poet's death. 

The authenticity of the writings given in this collection is 
established by Whitman's signature (in a few cases that of his 
known nom de plume), by the direct transmission of the manu- 
scripts through his literary executors or other responsible per- 
sons, or by such other evidence as is set forth in the footnotes 
to the various selections. In the case of newspapers for which 
Whitman was the sole editorial writer, the dates that bounded 
his editorship have been established beyond peradventure and 
selections made only from issues comprehended between those 
dates. A careful study has also been made, by way of verifica- 
tion, of all the internal evidence afforded by the selections 

With the exception of the excerpts from the Brooklyn Times, 
to the files of which I had only a limited access, and the digest of 
his book reviews in the Eagle, nearly all the quotations have been 
made without any abridgment whatever. Nothing has been 
"expurgated" or altered in its meaning, and wherever a word or 
a passage has been omitted or inserted the fact has been indi- 
cated, omissions by asterisks and additions by brackets. But 
it has seemed to me that it would be unjust to Whitman and 
inconvenient for the reader should I preserve the punctuation 
exactly as it stands in the columns of the very inexpert journals 
of half a century and more ago, or that I should retain obvious 
typographical errors. Some commas which were not only 
superfluous but obstructive I have omitted, and in a few cases 
I have modernized other marks of punctuation where to do 
so would not alter the meaning except to make it clearer. But, 
believing that punctuation and spelling no less than phrase- 
ology and grammar have their place in revealing mental pro- 
cesses, I have preserved Whitman's eccentricities in regard to 
these except where I judged that they would be particularly 


baffling or irritating to the modern reader. All verse and manu- 
scripts have been given in faithful copy even to the point of 
retaining meaningless punctuation and fragments of sentences. 

To facilitate the use of the volumes by the Whitman student, 
I have added numerous footnotes, giving places and dates of 
publication, cross references, and such other information or in- 
terpretation as was deemed helpful toward an understanding of 
the text. In a few cases several Whitman utterances on a given 
subject, or in a series, have been placed in juxtaposition (out 
of their strict chronological order) that one might throw light 
upon another. The manuscripts which antedate the 1855 
edition of the "Leaves of Grass" have been collated both with 
that edition and with the current authorized edition. Further- 
more, I have attempted, in two introductory essays, to evaluate 
all this heterogenous material and to render it accessible to 
various types of students, such as psychologists, genealogists, 
historians, students of American life, manners, journalism, and 
literature, and students of Whitman in particular. Space has 
been wanting, of course, to give a complete story of Whitman's 
life or to essay a comprehensive estimate of his work, but I 
have tried to point out the relation of this new material to the 
outstanding problems of Whitman biography and criticism. 
The definitive biography of Whitman, when it comes to be 
written, will make use of this material only in its just relation to 
what has hitherto been known; but here there is opportunity to 
do little more than to index the material in the volumes in the 
form of two essays. 

The student who desires to examine in chronological order all 
the early writings of Whitman, including those preserved in the 
"Complete Prose," is referred also to the bibliography which, in 
collaboration with Mr. Henry S. Saunders, I prepared to accom- 
pany my chapter on this poet in the "Cambridge History of 
American Literature," Volume II. 

In collecting material for such a sourcebook as this I have nat- 
urally been placed under manifold obligations both to libraries 
and to individuals. Of the former I desire to thank, in particu- 
lar, the Queens Borough Public Library, of Jamaica, Long 
Island, which repeatedly opened for me its rare files of the 
Long Island Democrat and of the Long Island Farmer; the Long 
Island Historical Society, of Brooklyn, for innumerable courte- 
sies during several years, including the supplying of files of the 
Brooklyn Star, Eagle, Adverther, Standard, and Patriot, as well 


as many other rare and serviceable volumes; the Howard Me- 
morial Library and the Louisiana State Historical Society, of 
New Orleans, for giving me access to their files of the New Or- 
leans Crescent and for other services; the Brooklyn Public 
Library, the Pratt Library (Brooklyn), the Columbia Univer- 
sity Library, the library of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, the Li- 
brary of Congress, and especially the New York Public Library, 
without whose united assistance I could never have brought the 
present work to a state of even approximate completion. My 
indebtedness to individuals is likewise great. Not to mention 
by name the officials of the institutions just enumerated, I have 
been placed under obligation by the following persons: Mr. 
William Kernan Dart, of New Orleans, who kindly permitted 
me to read his article "Walt Whitman in New Orleans" while 
it was still in manuscript and who otherwise assisted me in iden- 
tifying some of Whitman's contributions to the Crescent; Mr. 
Herbert F. Gunnison, Mr. William H. Sutton, and Mr. A. J. 
Aubrey, of the Brooklyn Eagle, for the highly appreciated court- 
esy of having unsealed for me many volumes of their journal 
which were not to be duplicated elsewhere, and for other ser- 
vices; Mr. Richard C. Ellsworth and Mr. George R. Rothwell, 
of the Brooklyn Times, for a similar kindness; Mrs. M. L. Val- 
entine, of New York, for permission to examine her large col- 
lection of Whitman manuscripts and to make use of one of them 
here; Mr. Louis I. Haber and Mr. Alfred L. Goldsmith, also 
of New York, for permission to publish Whitman manuscripts 
which they own; Mr. Frank Hopkins, Mr. Max Breslow, Mr. 
Oscar Lion, the late Horace Traubel, Mrs. Orvetta Hall Bren- 
ton, Miss Rica Brenner, Mr. Edgar P. Holloway, and Miss 
Mary Holloway, for varied assistance; Mrs. Ina M. Seaborn, of 
London, Ontario, who placed me deeply in her debt by allowing 
me to make an extended examination of the great collection of 
Whitmaniana left by her father, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke; 
Mr. Thomas B. Harned, a close friend and now the only sur- 
viving literary executor of Whitman, who generously placed in 
my hands, for use here and elsewhere, all the Whitman material 
that came to him under the poet's will, including the extremely 
interesting and valuable manuscript notebooks to which refer- 
ence has already been made, and who has offered me, for use as 
a frontispiece, the last unreproduced Gutekunst photograph 
of Whitman; Mr. Henry S. Saunders, of Toronto, who placed 
at my service his uncommonly large collection of Whitman 


writings and who has rendered important and enthusiastic as- 
sistance in tracing some of the poet's very fugitive publications; 
Mr. G. G. Wyant and a certain anonymous reader, sometime 
connected with the Yale University Press, for helpful criticism; 
Professors John Erskine and Ashley H. Thorndike, of Columbia 
University; Professor Bliss Perry, of Harvard; and Professor 
Killis Campbell, of the University of Texas, and my colleague, 
Professor Edgar A. Hall, a suggestion from the first of whom 
was largely responsible for my undertaking, in a different form, 
the present research. Nor can one publish a collection similar 
to this without being made the debtor, in sundry ways, to 
that genial fraternity, the dealers in old and rare books. 

To no one, however, am I so much indebted as to my wife, 
who has prepared the Subject Index and who by years of 
varied assistance and encouraging faith has lightened a la- 
borious task. 

Brooklyn, 1920. 



The manuscript of the present work was already in the hands 
of its publishers when a selection from Whitman's writings in 
the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, entitled "The Gathering of the 
Forces," appeared. Since the announcement of my intention 
to publish the results of the research offered to the reader 
herewith had antedated by some years the work of Messrs. 
Rodgers and Black, there was no occasion, as there was little 
opportunity, for me to alter the principle on which I had in- 
cluded or excluded material. A very few minor changes have 
been made, however, as the book went through the press. 
Wherever possible I have consulted the reader's convenience by 
referring him to "The Gathering of the Forces," rather than to 
the rare files of the Eagle, for some material not reproduced 




Introductory Essays 

I. Biographical xxiii 

II. Critical lxi 


1838 Our Future Lot 1 

1839 Young Grimes 2 

1839 Fame's Vanity 4 

1839 My Departure 5 

1840 The Inca's Daughter 8 

1840 The Love That Is Hereafter 9 

1840 We All Shall Rest at Last 10 

1840 The Spanish Lady 12 

1840 The End of All 13 

1840 The Columbian's Song 15 

1 841 The Punishment of Pride 17 

1842 Ambition* 19 

1843 The Death of the Nature Lover* 7 

1846 The Play-Ground 21 

1846 Ode to Be Sung on Fort Greene 22 

1848! New Year's Day, 1848 23 

1 849-50-)- Isle of La Belle Riviere 24 

1850 The House of Friends 25 

1850 Resurgemus 27 

1892 [On Duluth, Minn.] (Probably spurious) . . 30 

Shorter Prose Publications 

1838 Effects of Lightning 32 

1840 Sun-Down Papers [N0.5] 32 

*A redaction of an earlier poem. 

fDate of composition. Other dates are those of publication. 




1 841 
1 841 
1 841 
j 841 





Sun-Down Papers [No. 6] ■ . . 25 

[No. 7] 37 

[No. 8] 39 

[No. 9] 44 

[No. 9 bis] 46 

[No. 10] 48 

[Report of Walter Whitman's Speech] ... 51 

Bervance; or Father and Son 52 

The Tomb-Blossoms 60 

Boz and Democracy 67 

The Last of the Sacred Army 72 

A Legend of Life and Love 78 

The Angel of Tears 83 

Eris; A Spirit Record 86 

The Little Sleighers 90 

Tear Down and Build Over Again .... 92 

A Dialogue 97 

Art-Singing and Heart-Singing 104 

Slavers and the Slave Trade 106 

Hurrah for Hanging ! 108 

"Motley's Your Only Wear" no 

Something About the Children of Early Spring . 113 

Ourselves and the Eagle 114 

A Pleasant Morning 117 

Andrew Jackson 117 

East Long Island 118 

"Home*" Literature 121 

Morbid Appetite for Money 123 

Criticism — New Books 125 

[Extracts from Whitman's Criticisms of Books 

and Authors] 126 

Working- Women 137 

The Old Black Widow 138 

Incidents in the Life of a World-Famed Man . 139 
Matters Which Were Seen and Done in an After- 
noon Ramble 14 1 

Education — Schools, etc 144 

A Fact-Romance of Long Island 146 

A Few Words to the Young Men of Brooklyn . 148 

"Important Announcement" 149 

An Incident on Long Island Forty Years Ago . 149 



1846 The West 151 

1847 Why Do the Theatres Languish? 152 

1847 A City Fire 154 

1847 What an Idea! 156 

1847 Dramatic Affairs and Actors 156 

1847 [The Democratic Spirit] 159 

1847 New States; Shall They Be Slave or Free? . . 160 

1847 The Ambition to "Make a Show" in Dress. . 162 

1847 Anti-Democratic Bearing of Scott's Novels . . 163 

1847 Ride to Coney Island, and Clam Bake There . 164 

1847 New Light and Old 166 

1847 Philosophy of Ferries 168 

1847 American Workingmen versu s Slavery . . . 171 

1847 East Long Island Correspondence (Letter I) . 174 

1847 " " * (Letter II) . 177 

1847 " " " " (Letter III). 180 

1848 Excerpts From a Traveller's Note Book 

Crossing the Alleghanies 181 

Western Steamboats — The Ohio . . . 1 86 

Cincinnati and Louisville 189 

1848 Model Artists 191 

1848 A Question of Propriety 191 

1848 The Habitants of Hotels 193 

1848 Hero Presidents 195 

1848 Sketches of the Sidewalks and Levees 

Peter Funk, Esq 199 

Miss Dusky Grisette 202 

Daggerdraw Bowieknife, Esq 205 

John J. Jinglebrain 208 

Timothy Gouj on, V.O.N.0 211 

Patrick McDray 213 

Samuel Sensitive 216 

1848 Death of Mr. Astor of New York . . . .218 

1848 University Studies 220 

1848 The Old Cathedral 221 

1848 A Walk About Town 223 

1848 General Taylor at the Theatre 225 

1848 A Night at the Terpsichore Ball 225 

1848 Fourierism 229 

1848 The Shadow and the Light of a Young Man's 

Soul 229 



1850 Paragraph Sketches of Brooklynites (Beecher). 234 

1851 Something About Art and Brooklyn Artists. . 236 

1 85 1 A Letter from Brooklyn 239 

1851 Art and Artists 241 

1 85 1 Letters from Paumanok [No. 1] 247 

1 85 1 " " " [No. 2] 250 

1851 A Plea for Water 254 

1 85 1 Letters from Paumanok [No. 3] 255 

1854 Sunday Restrictions 259 


Whitman at Seventy Frontispiece 

The first reproduction of an extremely suc- 
cessful Gutekunst proof. 

Facing Page 

Whitman's Earliest Manuscript 84 

A letter of 1842, now in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas B. Harned. 

Pencil Drawings by Whitman 194 

Found in a notebook of the Pfaffian period. 



Our knowledge of Whitman's ancestry comes largely from the 
poet himself. The blood of English, Dutch, and Welsh forbears 
blended in his veins, but it is obvious that he was proudest of 
his Hollandic stock. In his historical sketches of Brooklyn and 
Long Island 1 he has much to say in praise of the physical sound- 
ness, the cleanliness, intelligence, and religion of the Dutch col- 
onists in New Amsterdam, 2 but very little to say about the 
English. Yet if the common sense, the sound judgment, the 
enterprise and patience, the slowness of movement and of 
thought, and the religious toleration of his Dutch (and Quaker) 
forbears were all to appear in the man and in his work, hardly 
less apparent were to be the tenacity of purpose and the mys- 
tical idealism of his English (New England) stock. As one 
reads the present volumes, these two ancestral strains will be 
found contending together for the mastery, or else, in moments 
of greatest achievement, uniting to create the "Leaves of 

Whitman's maternal grandfather, Major Cornelius Van Velsor, 
a prosperous farmer at Cold Spring, he describes as "jovial, red, 
stout, with sonorous voice and characteristic physiognomy," 3 
while his wife is pictured as being "of sweet, sensible character, 
housewifely proclivities, and deeply intuitive and spiritual." 4 
It is pleasant to see this wholesome couple in the simple country 
setting of the ghost story which Whitman, as editor of the 
Brooklyn Eagle, culls for his readers from the stores of family 
legend. 5 Both the Major and his sweet-tempered wife were 

^he " Brooklyniana," II, pp. 222-321, passim. 

*See II, pp. 5, 224-227, 300. 

•Walt Whitman's "Complete Prose," 1914, p. 5. Hereafter this volume will be 
referred to by its title alone. 

•Quoted from John Burroughs in "Complete Prose," p. 6. 

6 " An Incident on Long Island Forty Years Ago," I, pp. 149-151. 


of the Quaker persuasion, a fact which — chiefly through the 
poet's mother — came to influence his own character and writings. 
Major Van Velsor, like Walt's father, was a personal friend of 
Elias Hicks, whose home was at Jericho, 1 not far from Cold 
Spring; and any anecdote concerning the Quaker leader was 
carefully preserved by Whitman. 2 It would seem, however, 
that the younger Whitman never went the whole way with the 
disciples of Fox; he did not believe, for instance, that the doc- 
trine of non-resistance could ever dominate the lives of men. 3 
But he was at times powerfully influenced by what these reli- 
gious mystics call the "inner light." 4 He even interpreted the 
Scriptures so much in the manner of the Friends as once to 
conceive of the spirit which inspires his own poetry as a rein- 
carnation of the soul of Jesus. 5 To him "the divine Jew" was 
the supreme character of the ages, but unique only in the degree 
of his divinity. 6 As to the genuine Quaker, so to him outward 
show and ceremonialism meant little, 7 creed and dogma no 
more. 8 He detested the doctrinal bickering of the sects, 9 
since to him religion was always the simple spirit of reverence 
and direct communion with an immanent deity that it was to 
the Hicksite Quaker; he looked upon religion as a mode of living 
rather than as a phase of life. 10 If we may judge by the great 
number of his allusions and quotations, the Bible 11 was one of 
the chief sources of his inspiration, Shakespeare 12 being its only 
close rival. Whatever strictures Whitman may have laid 
upon the churches 13 and whatever lapses there may have been 
in his conduct from the idealism of his best moments, one 
need not go beyond the pages of the present work to be con- 
vinced that his nature was spiritually sensitive to a high degree 14 
and that his sympathy and love for his fellow men was pro- 
foundly Christian. 15 

*See II, p. 311. 2 See II, pp. 3-4; also "Complete Prose," pp. 457-473. 

3 See I, p. 197. 4 See I, pp. 38, 42-44; II, pp. 66-67, 7 X > 7 2 > 80-81, 89. 

6 See II, p. 74; cf. the poem "To Him That Was Crucified." 

• See II, pp. 83, 91-92. i See I, p. 94-96, 145. «See I, pp. 29 #•; H>P- J 3> note 4- 

•See I, pp. 39 ff. 10 See I, pp. 95-96, 186. 

u Page references to these allusions will be found in the Subject Index. The aim of the 
footnotes in this Introduction is to illustrate and substantiate the various points made, 
not to exhaust the evidence contained in the volumes. 

12 It seems that Whitman knew a good deal of Shakespeare by heart. See II, p. 318, 
and Subject Index. 

"See II, pp. 74, 84-85, 90. l4 See II, pp. 61, 69-70, 79-80, 82-83, 159, 163, 166. 

"See I, pp. 46-48, II, pp. 69-71, 74, 81, 84, 146-147, 160, 173. 


Whitman's memory for dates is seldom worthy of implicit 
trust, but when he says 1 that his father moved the family to 
Brooklyn in May, 1823, he is at least approximately correct. 2 
Except for summer excursions to the Island, the poet spent his 
boyhood in Brooklyn, then a village small and primitive 
enough 3 for his curious eyes to have explored all its picturesque 
corners 4 and to have been familiar with all its leading person- 
ages. 5 As a sturdy lad of six, he stood in line among his school- 
fellows to await the arrival of that hero of the Revolution who 
was by chance to lay upon him the "sacred hands" 6 of a 
patriot. 7 This act of Lafayette's can scarcely be said, in the 
light of the original story (told in 1857), 8 to have had any refer- 
ence to the boy's character or appearance; nevertheless it seems 
to have lingered in the latter's mind with the significance of a 
prophetic symbol. At any rate, it was several times repeated 
by him 9 — not, it must be admitted, without a natural increment 
of sentimental detail. We next see the idle and mischievous 
boy 10 throwing brickbats into the mulberry trees in Nassau 
Street, unafraid of being driven away by the good-natured 
ladies who owned them and unmindful how near his missiles 
might fall to the heads of unwary pedestrians. 11 And doubtless 
he was with the rest of the village urchins when they went, 
equipped with bent pin and tow string, to angle for " killy-fish " 
in the stagnant marshes of the Wallabout, long since obliterated 
by the construction of the City Park. 12 

On Sundays he attended the Dutch Reformed Sunday School 
in the old-fashionted, gray stone church on Joralemon Street 13 as 
later he was to study human nature from his vantage-point in the 
galleries of the Sands Street Methodist Church during the 
hey-day of the old-time revivals. 14 The fervour with which the 
revival hymns were sung may have given him some early ideas 
of the power of song to fuse the sentiments of a people. 15 Whether 

I See II, p. 86. 

2 Whitman's references to this date vary from 1822-3 to 1825. The earliest record 
in the city directory (Spooner) is 1825. 

3 SeeII,p. 292 ff. 4 Cy.I, pp. 141-144, 168-171, 174 ff.; II, pp. 2-5, 222-32 1,/xttjj'w. 
6 See I, pp. 234-235, II, 293-296. e See II, p. 288. 
7 See II, pp. 3, 256-257, 284-288; cf. I, p. 77, 1 1 8. «See II, p. 2-3. 
•See infra, note 7; also "Complete Prose," pp. 9, 510-51 1, and "Lafayette in Brook- 
lyn," New York, 1905. 
10 Cf. "Complete Prose," p. 465; post, II, pp. 3, 255. 

II See II, p. 295. " See II, p. 269. 13 See II, p. 262, cf ' ' Complete Prose," p. 10. 
"See II, p. 293. 15 Ibidem. 


he included himself among the third of the young apprentices 
and mechanics of Brooklyn who "experienced religion" in those 
revivals, 1 we do not know; but his later emotional and mystical 
experiences render such a supposition tenable. 2 In any case, 
he remembered the beauty of the girls he saw there — the more 
beautiful to him, perhaps, for being sensitive to spiritual im- 
pressions. In the latter half of his life Whitman seldom went to 
church, but it would seem that he had no deep prejudice against 
the institution when he was younger. He was on good terms 
with the ministers 3 and not infrequently surrendered the 
editorial columns of the Eagle for long reports of their sermons, 4 
and as editor advised the building of more houses of worship 5 
and recommended attendance upon divine service. 6 At times 
he even looked upon himself, in inspired moments, as the 
founder of a new religion or cultus, 7 though not, to be sure, of 
an institutionalized church. 8 

On week days the boy attended the public school in Sands 
Street, 9 where, however, the only incident that impressed him 
as worthy of later record was his hearing the explosion that 
wrecked the Frigate Fulton (June, 1829) in the Navy Yard 

^c II, p. 293. 

*If so, it was probably not the type of conversion in which a sense of sin predominates 
for he once said to Horace Traubel: "I never, never was troubled to know whether I 
would be saved or lost: what was that to me?" ("With Walt Whitman in Camden," 
III, p. 494) 

'See I, p. 176, pp. 255, 313. Whitman was a friend of Beecher, whom he thought 
indebted to the "Leaves of Grass." ("With Walt Whitman in Camden," I, pp. 137- 
138; III, passim; also post, I, pp. 234-235-) 

4 E.g., in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 30, November 23, 1846. Whitman also 
introduced in the Eagle (December 19, 1846) a column called "Sunday Reading." 

•See I, p. 141. *See I, pp. 221-222. »See II, pp. 91-92. "See II, pp. 66-67. 

•Most of Whitman's prose writings betray his want of the formal and disciplinary 
training more often found in the schoolroom than in the newspaper office. In the 
1830*3 the schools, like the newspapers, were, of course, far below modern standards. 
When Whitman studied the public school as teacher and as a self-appointed editorial 
inspector, he came to realize how poor they often were. Possibly he had sensed this even 
as a pupil. Apparently he had not made much use, however, of what educational 
opportunities he had at school. A granddaughter of his Brooklyn schoolmaster, Miss 
Theodora Goldsmith, Lady Principal of the Adelphi Academy, writes me: "He [Whit- 
man] was a boy in Sands Street school, now called Public School No. 1, some time during 
the thirties. My grandfather, Benjamin Buel Halleck, was a teacher for ten or a dozen 
years in that school and for a part of the time principal as well. He remembered Walt 
Whitman as a big, good-natured lad, clumsy and slovenly in appearance, but not other- 
wise remarkable. My grandfather was surprised when Walt proved, long afterwards, 
to be a poet, saying: 'We need never be discouraged over anyone.'" Whitman had his 
own method of self-education, as will appear in this essay and in the one which follows; 
but he always exerted as much influence as he possessed in securing a higher standard 
of schools for others, whether secondary or higher, in city or country. See I, pp. 1 44-146, 
a2o— 211; II, 13-15. 


close by. 1 A few days later he followed, boy-like, the funeral 
procession of an officer slain on the Fulton^ only to have his 
sensitive nature offended when the band, which had approached 
the cemetery with all the impressive solemnity of a naval 
funeral, marched off to the tune of a lively jig. 2 Whitman 
seems to have spent much of his time, both as boy and as man, 
in loitering in burial grounds, whether in the city or in the 
country, meditating much, as from the first he was to write 
much, on the problems of death and the grave. 8 It would 
be far from accurate, however, to describe him as a moody lad, 
obsessed with gloomy thoughts. It was doubtless first-hand 
knowledge that he had of the village entertainments which 
he recalled in the " Brooklyniana " sketches thirty years later — 
the balls, parties, sleigh rides, lectures, concerts, itinerant shows, 
singing schools, 4 or special celebrations. 5 

Either Whitman had left school by 1830, at the age of eleven, 6 
or else he began work as office and errand boy to "Lawyer 
Clarke" during a vacation period. Neither this employment 
nor that in the office of the unnamed doctor mentioned by 
Bucke 7 could have been of very long duration, for in the 
next summer the office boy was to become printer's devil 
for the Long Island Patriot^ in the office of which he was to 
learn from that venerable printer, William Hartshorne, "the 
craft preservative of all crafts." 8 It has not been sufficiently 
emphasized that during his more formative years Whitman's 
vantage point for looking at life was nearly always a newspaper 
office, 9 except when it was some favourite spot in nature. It 

»See II, p. 265. ■ II, p. 266. 

•See I, pp. 1-2, 4-5, 5-6, 7, 8-9, 9-10, io-ii, 12, 13-15, 18, 20, 28-30, 32, 35-37, 
38-39, 60-67, 84-89, 97-103, 107-108, 218-219, 243- 2 44; II, pp. 15-16, 22, 89, 148- 
150, 178-181, also "A Brooklynite in N. Y. Churchyards," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 
July 7, 1846, and "The Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 1 05-1 13. 

4 See II, p. 257. 6 See II, pp. 255-257. 6 See II, p. 86. 

7 In the "Chronological Forecast" which Whitman wrote for Bucke's "Walt Whit- 
man," p. 8. 

•See II, pp. 86, 245-249. 

•Whitman is known to have been directly connected with the press in the following 
years, as well as to have written for many other newspapers concerning his connection 
with which we know almost nothing (see "Complete Prose," p. 188): I^ng Island 
Patriot^ 1831-32; Long Island Star, 1832-33; Long Islander, 1838-39; Long Island 
Democrat, 1 839-1 841; New World, 1 841-42; Aurora, Sun, Tattler, 1842; Statesman, 1843; 
Democrat, 1844; Brooklyn Eagle, 1846-48; New Orleans Crescent, 1848; Brooklyn Free- 
man, 1848-49; Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, 1850, 1851; New York Evening Post, 1851; 
Brooklyn Times, 1857-58 (?); Brooklyn Standard, 1861-62; New York Herald, 1888. This 
leaves out of account his lifelong habit of contributing to magazines. For a list of these 
see the Whitman bibliography in the " Cambridge History of American Literature," 
Vol. II 


was fortunate for him that his initiation into the journalistic 
world should have been given in a building closely associated 
with Revolutionary heroism 1 and under the influence of a man 
so able to fire his patriotic imagination with stories of Wash- 
ington, Jefferson, and other makers of the nation. 2 The rever- 
ence thus engendered for Washington, in particular, was in the 
boy and young man little less than religious. 3 His own pro- 
phetic mission, when it should be announced to him, was thus 
predestined to take on a patriotic significance. With the pro- 
prietor of the Patriot, Samuel E. Clements, 4 a "hawk-nosed 
Southerner," the young apprentice was on good terms and was 
taken riding by him on Sundays. 5 From Clements Whitman 
doubtless received his first ideas of the South, and perhaps from 
him adopted the arguments in defence of slavery which he was 
to introduce into his hastily written "Franklin Evans" 6 (1842). 
In the Patriot office he also became acquainted with Henry C. 
Murphy, later to prove influential in local politics, to be elected 
repeatedly to Congress, and to be sent as minister to The Hague. 7 
The law firm of Murphy, Lott, and Vanderbilt, it is said, shaped 
very largely the policies of the Eagle; it may have been there- 
fore that Whitman's early friendship for Murphy in the Patriot 
office had something to do with the former's selection, in 1846, 
as editor of the Eagle. His loss of that editorship, in any case, 
was due to his opposition to the conservative Murphy faction 
of the Democratic Party 8 — to this and to some dissatisfaction 
on the part of the Eagle's proprietor, Isaac Van Anden, with 
Whitman's irregularity in performing his editorial duties. 
Though Murphy had been a cause of his losing so comfortable 
a berth, 9 Whitman was willing to write a very laudatory sketch 
of the politician for the Brooklyn Times in 1857. 10 Precisely 
what Whitman did after leaving the Patriot is not clear. "I 
was at Worthington's in the summer of '32," he records. 11 This 

x See II, p. 247. *See II, pp. 246-247. 

3 See I, pp. 22, 72-78, 95, 118, 197, 246; cf. II, pp. 2-3, 284-288. 

4 See I, p. 234, note, II, pp. 3-4, 9, note 3, 86, 248-249, 294. 

"See "Complete Prose," p. 10. e See II, pp. 183-184. 

7 See I, pp. 165; II, 1-2, 5, 225. 

8 See "Complete Prose," p. 188; post, II, p. 1 and note. ■ Ibidem. 

10 See II, pp. 1-2, 5. 

According to the testimony of a friend of Van Anden. At the time of Whitman's dis- 
missal, the charge was made and denied that there had been a personal encounter in 
which the young editor had kicked a prominent political personage down the editorial 
stairs. This is not the place to sift the evidence, but probably a difference of politics was 
at the root of the matter. 

11 See II, p. 86. 


Worthington was probably another printer, and perhaps at the 
time postmaster as well. 1 With him, however, Whitman 
remained only a few months, for in the fall he went to work as 
printer's devil on Col. Alden Spooner's Long Island Star, a 
Whig organ published weekly. 2 He was still doing odd jobs 
for the Star when his family returned to the Island to live, in 
1833. 3 He joined the family for a short period in 1836, 4 but 
where he was and what he was doing in the three intervening 
years we can only surmise. Perhaps he remained with Spooner 
later than 1833. But this, rather than the date he gives 5 
(1836-7), must have been the period in which he wandered as a 
journeyman compositor to the larger and more fascinating 
city across the East River. In that case it is not unlikely 
that he himself had at that time the difficulties in finding a 
boarding-house which are reflected in the experience of Franklin 
Evans. 6 In 1835 lt: was not eas y> it seems, to discover an inex- 
pensive room in the home of a family that was clean, that 
had young children about, and that did not make attendance 
upon family worship obligatory. Much of the poet's life was 
to be spent in boarding-houses and hotels, 7 a fact which doubt- 
less had its influence in shaping his rather detached attitude 
toward the family as an institution. At this time he was making 
the acquaintance of the theatre and the opera, 8 both of which 
were to have much to do in his education. A naively conde- 
scending exposition of the latter forms the theme of one of 
his earliest manuscripts. 9 Of the theatre and the opera he 
made a serious study however impressionistic it may have 
been, and prepared himself by reading the play or libretto in 
advance. 10 

1 See II, p. 296, note. 2 See II, pp. 86, 246. 'See II, p. 86. 4 Ibidem. 

5 "Complete Prose," p. 10. From the middle of 1836 till the middle of 1841 Whitman 
lived in the country. (See post, II, pp. 86-87.) Even before 1836 he probably spent 
his summers on the Island. (See "Complete Prose," p. 10.) 

6 See II, pp. 126-127; c f- a k° P- 2l8 - 

7 See I, pp. XLV, 61, 223, 224, 248, 249, II, pp. 23-24, 58, 59, 87-88. 

"See "Complete Prose," p. 514; I, pp. 255-259, II, pp. 148, 253-255. In the course 
of an acrimonious editorial tilt with the Brooklyn Advertizer (January, 1847) Whit- 
man provoked the ire of certain Brooklyn "counterjumpers" by his casual allusion to 
their complete want of critical ability. One of them replied in an open letter {Advertizer, 
January 18), in which I find a suggestion that Whitman once had some function in the 
theatre other than that of newspaper critic: " Now whether or not he thinks the sta- 
tion of printer's 'devil' or a prompter's 'devil,' as he has been, or somebody else's 
'devil,' as he now is — an intellectually super [sic] to that of a clerk we know not," etc. 

•"A Visit to the Opera," II, pp. 97-101. 

10 As to the latter, sec p. II, 100. 


2. LONG ISLAND (i 836-1841) 

We can only guess the reason which influenced Whitman, in 
1836, to turn his back on the city which had fascinated him with 
its varied sights and which, through its opportunities for self- 
education in newspaper office, theatre, opera, amateur theatri- 
cals, and multitudinous human contacts, had generated in him a 
deep but ill-defined ambition. If, as I believe, "The Shadow 
and the Light of a Young Man's Soul" 1 be largely autobio- 
graphical, perhaps it suggests the cause of Whitman's five-year 
absence from New York; he may have been, like Archie Dean, 
simply out of employment. 2 For it was unemployment, he 
tells us, that drove most of the country school-teachers to their 
unremunerative if not uncongenial tasks. 3 Or he may have 
made his customary summer visit to his relatives, intending to 
enjoy such natural beauties as the season and the Island af- 
forded, and from this he may have drifted into school-teaching 
in the same casual manner in which he seemed to drift from 
newspaper to newspaper. A glance at his photograph of this 
period 4 is sufficient to discover in him that " want of energy and 
resolution" 5 which he ascribed to Archie Dean. He was ambi- 
tious, as I have said, but not wholesomely or happily so, for 
he was proud, disinclined to steady work, and prone to feel that 
the labour dictated by necessity was somehow beneath his ca- 
pacity. 6 

Each has his care; old age fears death; 

The young man's ills are pride, desire, 
And heart-sickness, and in his breast 

The heat of passion's fire.* 

It was natural for him to shift from district to district, seeking 
novelty where advancement was impossible. Within five years 
he had taught seven schools, besides editing one paper for eight 
or ten months and writing for others. 8 These frequent changes 

1 Sce I, pp. 229-234. 2 See I, pp. 229-231. 3 See II, p. 13. 

* Frontispiece, Vol. II. 6 See I, p. 230; cf. II, p. 194. ^Ibidem. 7 See I, p. 10. 

8 Manuscript Notebook — 4 gives us our most complete record of these changes: Nor- 
wich, beginning in June, 1836; school west of Babylon, winter, 1836-37; Long Swamp, 
spring, 1837; Smithtown, fall and winter, 1837; the Long IsJander edited at Huntington, 
June, 1838 — spring, 1839; school between Jamaica and Flushing (Little Bay Side?), 
winter, 1839-40; Woodbury, summer, 1840; Whitestone, winter, 1 840-41 ; return to New 
York, May, 1841. See II, pp. 86-87. 


may argue his incapacity, 1 on which point there is a difference of 
testimony, 2 or they may merely indicate his roving disposition. 
On the whole they were fortunate, for they not only brought him 
into contact with the various phases of life on the Island, 3 but 
likewise taught him the solid worth and common sense of the 
self-reliant country folk and of the middle classes, 4 a lesson 
which he had scarcely learned, or was likely to learn, in the east- 
ern cities. 5 In celebrating the "divine average" the poet began 
with the small farmer rather than with the industrial proleta- 
riat. But in electing to spend the years from seventeen to 
twenty-two in the country, this sensitive, inclusive, mystical 
bard derived another benefit. It meant that he would develop 
more slowly but more sanely. A Walt Whitman without 
poise, 6 balance, would be inconsequential indeed. The chief 
significance of his "boarding round" among the rather illiterate 
Islanders, of his attendance upon country frolics 7 , clam bakes, 8 
fishing and sailing parties, 9 of his solitary walks by day or 
night, and of his long rides, 10 is therefore to be sought in the 
whole spirit and conception of the "Leaves of Grass" no less 
than in the pages of reminiscent prose in the "Brooklyniana" 
sketches or in the "Letters from Paumanok." 11 

What merits Whitman's experimental Long Islander may have 
had we cannot know, for, though the paper still flourishes, there 
seems to exist no file running back to the days of his connec- 
tion with it. A contemporary sheet, however, chanced to pre- 
serve for us mere samples of his prose 12 and verse 13 quoted from 
the Huntington weekly. They are nothing of which a nineteen- 
or twenty-year-old boy without appreciable schooling needed 
to be ashamed, yet they constitute no unanswerable argument 
why their author should not have been replaced by another 
editor when he grew hopelessly irregular in mounting his 

*In point of information Whitman was probably as well equipped as the average 
country teacher of his day, for the small salary paid — twenty years later, it was only 
forty or fifty dollars a quarter, exclusive of board — could not command the masters 
of a pretentious curriculum. See I, p. 46, note, II, pp. 13-14, 124. 

2 Cf. Charles A. Roe in " Brooklyniana," passim. " Walt Whitman Fellowship Paper," 
No. 14, and J. Johnston's and J. W. Wallace's "Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890-1891," 
pp. 70-71. 

'See I, pp. 1 19-120, 124-125, 146-147, 247-254; " Brooklyniana," passim. 

4 See I, pp. 120-121, 232-233, 248-254, II, p. 14, 59. 

'See I, pp. 151-152, 185, 231. 6 See II, p. 61. 7 Cf. I, pp. 48-51. 

•C£ I, pp. 164-166; II, pp. 319-320. 'See I, pp. 48-51, 248. 

10 See I, p. 232; "Complete Prose," pp. 8, 188. 

"See I, pp. 247-254. ^See I, p. 32. "See I, pp. 1-2. 


good horse Nina 1 in order to deliver its ostensibly weekly issues. 
It is likely that the Long Islander experience was helpful in 
securing for Whitman the first, impermanent editorial positions 
in the city after his return. 2 

By the fall of 1839, as we have seen, he found it necessary 
to return to school-teaching, that stand-by of budding Ameri- 
can genius. But as his ambition for a journalistic, if not a 
literary, career was growing more definite, he this time effected 
a compromise which permitted him to oscillate between. the 
school-house and the printing-office. Whitman lived in the 
family of James J. Brenton, in the village of Jamaica, who edited 
and published the weekly Long Island Democrat, for which the 
young journalist worked as typesetter and as contributor at 
such times as he was not occupied at his school a short distance 
down the Flushing road. The combination of teaching and 
journalism, however, seems to have had little influence upon his 
writing while at Jamaica other than to have suggested the 
caption for a series of very immature essays. Not one of the 
" Sun-Down Papers from the Desk of a Schoolmaster " 3 refers 
to school matters, but all are frankly didactic in manner. 
Though only seven of these have come to light, 4 there were 
apparently eleven in all. 5 Ten poems complete the publica- 
tions of the Jamaica period. The connection with Mr. Brenton 
was on the whole very beneficial to Whitman. The older jour- 
nalist had faith in him as a writer and encouraged him, both 
then and through the varying fortunes of later years. 6 In the 
Democrat office Whitman doubtless learned something about 
the management of a newspaper, he had an opportunity to 
publish his juvenilia pretty regularly, 7 and he had access to a 
circulating library of four hundred volumes. 8 It appears that 
the youth also knew at that time Henry Onderdonck, Jr., 9 the 

*See II, p. 87; cf. "Complete Prose," p. 1 88. 

»See II, pp. 87-88. 3 See I, pp. 32-51. 

•Including one copied from the Hempstead Inquirer and one published in the other 
Jamaica weekly, the Long Island Farmer. 

5 The series was numbered. 

•Brenton included Whitman's sentimental sketch, "Tomb-Blossoms," in the "Voices 
from the Press," which he published in 1850, and through the Democrat congratulated 
Whitman whenever the latter obtained a new editorial position. See also the letter 
quoted in the note on p. xxxiii. 

7 See footnote 1, to pp. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 32, 35, 37, 39, 44, 46. 

8 See the Long Island Democrat, January 17, 1838. 

9 See II, p. 309, note 3. 


antiquarian, who could tell him as many tales about Long 
Island's past as William Hartshorne had related of Revolu- 
tionary heroes. 

Concerning Whitman's domestic life at this period, little is 
known, 1 but clearly he was already going his own strange, self- 

*New and welcome light is thrown upon this period of Whitman's life by a letter to 
me from Mrs. Orvetta Hall Brenton, daughter-in-law of Whitman's Jamaica employer. 
Some allowance will have to be made, in reading it, for inaccuracy in detail, since it 
was based on conversations that took place about forty years ago, but it preserves at least 
the household tradition of Whitman and doubtless gives a fairly true picture. I omit 
only the general introductory paragraph. 

"Whitman was a very young man when he became a member of the Brenton household 
at Jamaica to learn the printing trade from my father-in-law at the office of the Long 
Island Democrat. It is not possible, however, for me to verify your dates of 1839 or 
1840. This definite information might be found in the files of the Long Island Democrat 
at Jamaica. My husband's parents died some thirty-five years ago, and my husband 
was too young when Whitman lived at the house to remember much about him. 

"My mother-in-law, Mrs. Brenton, was a practical, busy, New England woman, and 
very obviously, from her remarks about Whitman, cared very little for him and held him 
in scant respect. He was at that time a dreamy, impracticable youth, who did very 
little work and who was always 'under foot' and in the way. Except that he was al- 
ways in evidence physically, he lived his life very much to himself. One thing that 
impressed Mrs. Brenton unfavorably was his disregard of the two children of the house- 
hold — two small boys — who seemed very much to annoy him when they were with him 
in the house. 

"Mrs. Brenton always emphasized, when speaking of Whitman, that he was inordi- 
nately indolent and lazy and had a very pronounced disinclination to work! During 
some of the time he was in the household, the apple trees in the garden were in bloom. 
When Whitman would come from the printing office and finish the mid-day dinner, 
he would go out into the garden, lie on his back under the apple tree, and forget every- 
thing about going back to work as he gazed up at the blossoms and the sky. Frequently, 
at such times, Mr. Brenner would wait for him at the office for an hour or two and then 
send the 'printer's devil' up to the house to see what had become of him. He would 
invariably be found still lying on his back on the grass looking into the tree entirely ob- 
livious of the fact that he was expected to be at work. When spoken to, he would get 
up reluctantly and go slowly back to the shop. At the end of such a day, Mr. Brenton 
would come home and say, 'Walt has been of very little help to me to-day. I wonder 
what I can do to make him realize that he must work for a living?' and Mrs. Brenton 
would remark, 'I don't see why he doesn't catch his death of cold lying there on the 
ground under that apple tree!' 

"Whitman was such an annoyance in the household that Mrs. Brenton was overjoyed 
when he finally decided to leave the office of the Democrat. Mr. Brenton, however, 
was sorry to have him go, for, even in those early days, he showed marked ability as a 
writer and was of great value to the ' literary' end of the newspaper work. How long 
he was in Jamaica, or what salary he received, I do not know. Of course, in those days, 
a considerable part of the salary consisted in ' board and lodgings.' 

"I do not think he attended school at all at Jamaica, and I do not know where he first 
taught school, but I have always been under the impression that it was at, or near, 

"Another detail comes to mind in regard to his behavior in the house. He cared 
nothing at all about clothes or his personal appearance, and was actually untidy about 
his person. He would annoy Mrs. Brenton exceedingly by 'sitting around' in his shirt 
sleeves, and seemed much abused when she insisted on his putting on his coat to come to 
the family table. While she would be setting the table for meals, Whitman was always 
in her way in the dining room. His favourite seat was in the dining room near the closet 


guided way, with none to understand the dreams which filled 
him with somewhat more than the ordinary unrest and un- 
happiness of adolescence. Ultimately he found a way to recon- 
cile the world of his fancy with the equally wondrous world of 
his senses — a "path between reality and the soul"; but his 
Jamaica days knew the distraction of dwelling in two discon- 
nected realms at once. His fondness for loafing and inviting his 
soul, 1 already becoming pronounced, accounts for what success 
he was to attain both as seer and poet, as well as for what nu- 
merous failures he was to experience as a professional writer. 
But he was as yet less a "kosmos" than a chaos. Though his 
nature was never to conform to a really simple character type, 
certain later experiences, mystical or practical, were to charge 
him with a dominating purpose, single and powerful enough to 
impel, to fortify, and to encourage; 2 but at twenty he was un- 
able to fuse and focalize his desires on any of the ordinary ob- 
jects of human endeavour, whereas the extraordinary end of his 
singular existence was still but a tantalizing adumbration. 3 

During a part of Whitman's residence at Jamaica he had 
taken an active interest in politics. The warfare of political 
parties was still a new and exciting game in America, and Walt's 
patriotic upbringing and his fondness for addressing himself 
directly to the people 4 insured his participation in it sooner or 
later. Webster's oratory never left much impression on his 
memory, 5 yet it may have been the speech which the eloquent 
senator delivered in Jamaica on September 24, 1 840, that stimu- 

door where Mrs. Brenton had to pass him every time she wished to get the dishes and 
stumble continually over his feet. He would never think to remove his feet from the 
pathway until requested definitely to do so, nor would he move at all out of the way 
unless he was told to. 

" I am sorry I cannot tell you more. My impression has always been of a dreamy, 
quiet, morose young man, evidently not at all in tune with his surroundings and feeling, 
somehow, that fate had dealt hard blows to him. I never heard him spoken of as being 
in any way bright or cheerful. I cannot see how he could have been an interesting or suc- 
cessful teacher because of his apparent dislike of children at the time we knew him. I 
never heard a word against his habits. He spent most of the time off duty reading by 
the fire in the winter or out of doors dreaming in the summer. He was a genius who lived 
apparently, in a world of his own. He certainly was detached enough from the Brenton 
household at Jamaica." 

^ee I, pp. 44-46; II, p. 314. 

*See "A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads," "Leaves of Grass," 1917, III, 44. 
See also II, p. 60. 

» Ibidem (first reference). 4 See I, p. 115. 

•See "With Walt Whitman in Camden," III, pp. 175-176. 1 


lated him to active political enthusiasm, for he was himself 
electioneering in Queens County that fall. 1 By July 29, 1841, he 
had so far ingratiated himself with the Tammany organization 
as to be selected as one of the speakers to address a mass meet- 
ing of some ten thousand persons in the Park (now City Hall 
Park) in New York; 2 and by 1848 he was politically important 
enough to be appointed one of Brooklyn's fifteen delegates to 
the Free-soil Convention which met that year in Buffalo. 3 But 
in time his interest, though always enlisted in political causes, 
ceased to be attracted (if indeed there had ever been any seri- 
ous attraction) to a political career. Even had he chosen to 
deliver his "Leaves of Grass" message through the spoken 
instead of the written word, it is improbable that Whitman 
could ever have become a great orator. He thought too slowly 
to adapt himself to the exigencies of impromptu eloquence. 4 
But if he did not have the talents of an orator, he nevertheless 
had the instincts of one. His most successful prose is vibrant 
with declamatory periods, 5 while all his serious writing is an 
effort to address himself more or less personally to his reader. 6 
That his patriotism was idealistic rather than time-serving 
js sufficiently indicated by the single fragmentary speech that 
has come down to us 7 and by the occasional patriotic odes pub- 
lished in his youth. 8 His political power lay in his sound and 
disinterested judgment 9 and in his fearless public spirit. 

The sentimental eagle-screaming of the odes just mentioned 
was nothing novel in that platitudinous age, but Whitman fell 
into it the more readily, no doubt, because his personal sentiment 
had found inadequate means of expression. That strong ama- 
tive nature which was to get itself recorded fifteen years later 

»SeeII, p. 87. 

2 See I, p. 51 note. In the Eagle of January 4, 1847, appears the following: "Our an- 
swer to the Tammany Committee: Yes, Messrs. of the Tammany Society of New York, 
the Brooklyn Eagle will be happy to attend the 8th of January ball — not forgetting 
to thank you for your politeness and consideration." 

•See the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 7, 1848. Whitman was one of the speakers 
who addressed the meeting at which nominations were made, introducing a resolution 
instructing the delegates for Martin Van Buren. (See the New York Evening Post, 
August 7, 1848.) 

*Cf. "With Walt Whitman in Camden," I, p. 249. 

b E. g., I, pp. 154-155, 160-162, 172-174, 255-259. «See I, pp. 115; II, 104-105. 

7 See I, p. 51. 8 See I, pp. 15-16, 22-23. 

•In turning the pages of Whitman's early prose, especially the editorials written sixty 
or seventy-five years ago, one is impressed by the fact that he nearly always was on the 
side that was to be espoused by history. (See I, pp. 30-31, 51, 158, 174, 175, 263; cf. II, 
PP- 57, 79, 83, 201, 252, 274, 276, 292.) 


in the outspoken pages of "Children of Adam" and "Calamus" 
must also have been growing during adolescence with the devel- 
opment of his large but sensitive body and mind. He seems to 
have found no one at this period, however, who could under- 
stand or respond satisfyingly to his mystical hunger for affection. 
Archie Dean had a confidant in his mother, but Whitman's 
mother, though doubtless the best friend of his youth, found 
him as much a mystery as did the rest, and could only ponder 
in her heart the strange nature of her son. 1 As we have seen, he 
was too much of a dreamer to fit comfortably into the practical 
New England household of the Brentons, while his Quaker 
liberality of religious views sometimes caused him to be looked 
at askance by the orthodox Long Islanders. 2 His life must have 
been devoid even of any intimate friendship with the young of 
either sex, for his verse insistently complains that 

Luckless love pines on unknown. 3 

Despairing of ever finding a lover on earth, he at times longs, as 
the unrequited affection of youth has taught many a poet to 
long, for death, that in another world a spirit may perchance be 
found to mate with his. 4 Thus he who was to become the poet 
of joy and of absorbing affection began his singing with melan- 
choly chants of despair and the grave. 8 The dream of death as 
a release from an unhappy life persisted with him for years. 6 
Often it is tragic death that he describes, 7 sometimes the death 
of youth and innocence, fit for flowers and sentimentalizing. 8 
He dallies with the idea in the introverted luxury of his loneli- 
ness, even going so far as to imagine an ideal death scene for 
himself amidst the nature that he loved. 9 It is well not to take 
these poems too seriously, however, for, profoundly self-reveal- 
ing though they be, Whitman's native caution probably re- 
minded him from the first that they were only idle dreams. 10 

This unreciprocated affection did more than to make the poet 
moody; it made him humanitarian. Had the youth met a 
Mrs. Stannard or a Miss Royster, like Poe, his later celebration 
of affection might have been more often personal and less often 

^ee "In Re Walt Whitman" (Traubel, Horace, ed.), p. 34; also "With Wait Whit- 
man in Camden," III, p. 538. 
2 See "Walt Whitman Fellowship Paper," No. 14. 

3 See I, p. 10. 4 See I, pp. 9-10. 6 See infra, p. xxvii, note 3. • Ibidem. 
7 E. g. y I, pp. 8-9, 12-13, 5 2 -6o- 8£ - S» J » PP- 35-37- " See l > PP- 5"7- 
"Cf. II, pp. 53-54. 


scientific or philanthropic. But as it was, his affection was to 
become most characteristic when most indefinite, atmospheric, 
impersonal. 1 He professed to take no stock in the romantic 
sentiments as described by Byron and Bulwer, 2 and when he 
urged upon mankind the duty of brotherly love he meant simply 
"that healthy, cheerful feeling of kindness and good will, an 
affectionate tenderness, a warm-heartedness, the germs of which 
are plentifully sown by God in each human heart." 3 Thus 
ungratified desire finds a temporary relief in sublimated ex- 
pression, and the youthful writer naively follows a deep instinct 
in preaching against impulses which he subconsciously fears. 
Whitman the reformer sometimes had himself for his most 
interested and susceptible audience. 4 When he plunged with 
extravagant zeal into the various reform movements that were 
sweeping over the country in the i84o's, and excoriated the users 
of even tea, coffee, and tobacco 5 — as later he was to speak out 
against less venial sins — he probably did not realize it, so blame- 
less were his own habits at the time, but it was the puritan in him 
challenging to a long and tragic struggle the "caresser of life." 6 

Growing out of the causes of unrest which I have mentioned, 
itself perhaps a greater cause of unrest than any other, was 
Whitman's fermenting literary ambition. It became the 
stronger because it promised to satisfy his other desires. The 
political idealist, the dogmatic teacher, the priest of brotherly 
love, the social reformer, the dreaming poet, and the original 
artist might conceivably combine in the writer, though the 
world would have to wait fifteen years to learn just what unique 
sort of book such a writer would bring forth. At first the pros- 
pect of a career entered upon from motives of worldly ambition 
seemed vain and unworthy. 7 But when the literary life came to 
appear, not as an enticement to personal ambition, but as an 

^ee I, pp. 46-48; II, pp. 69-71, 74, 81, 84, 146, 160, 173. 

*See I, p. 48. But Whitman later quoted Byron freely (see I, p. 48, note 1). 

z Ibidem. 

♦Witness the story of his writing " Franklin Evans," a temperance novelette, while im- 
bibing his inspiration, much against his conscience, from gin punch. (See Bliss Perry's 
"Walt Whitman," p. 28.) Contrast, also, his editorial on honest book reviews (I. pp. 
125-126) with his habit of anonymous self-criticism, or his advice to young men to 
avoid the bar-rooms (I, pp. 148-149) with his New Orleans sketches. 

•See p. 34. 

6 "A Legend of Life and Love" (I, pp. 78-83), written in 1842, seems to indicate that 
Whitman soon came to realize that the issue was joined between a cautious asceticism 
and a generous trust in natural instincts. 

7 See I, pp. 4-5, 19-20. 


opportunity to extend to mankind (instead of a mere roomful 
of country youths) the benefit of his inspired tutelage, Whitman 
felt that the wilderness temptation would bear reconsideration. 
He began to dream of a book which was one day to make him 
famous. 1 It is interesting to note that originally the intent of 
the book is philosophical (perhaps religious) rather than artistic, 
that no novelty of form is mentioned, and that in it the treat- 
ment of romance and sex, which later came to have such import- 
ance in the plan of the "Leaves of Grass," was to be definitely 
and totally excluded because of complete ignorance on the part 
of the prospective author. 2 The plan of the book was as yet 
very hazy in Whitman's mind, 3 but he intends its burden to be a 
caution against what he afterward called "the mania of owning 
things/' In this he was probably too sincere to realize that by 
adding the vow of poverty to those of chastity and charity he 
was justifying to himself, not only his absorption in a mystical 
contemplation of the universe, but also his constitutional anti- 
pathy to the sort of routine application which accumulates the 
goods of this world. Anyway, this child certainly was father 
of the Brooklyn carpenter who is said to have turned his back 
on fairly profitable house-building in order to publish, again 
and again, a volume of poems that would not sell. This early 
announcement that, if the world would but have patience, 
Nazareth should yet produce her prophet affords, in its amusing 
mixture of modesty and naive egotism, a suggestive glimpse of 
the process whereby the affection of a gifted man, turned inward 
upon himself for want of other object, produces the artist and 
benefactor of mankind. It also warrants us in tracing the con- 
scious genesis of the "Leaves of Grass" farther back in the life 
of its author than has commonly been done. It would seem, in- 
deed, that Whitman's conception of truth was already trans- 
cendental and that he was acquainted with some simpler type 
of mystical ecstasy. 5 

But to suppose that the young man was always inditing in 
his heart such weighty matters would be to neglect that other 
side of his nature which took uncommon delight in physical sen- 
sations and personal experiences as such. He attended coun- 
try celebrations, 6 entered with zest into the spirit of picnic 

1 See I, pp. 37-39. ■ Ibidem. 

'See "A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads," in "Leaves of Grass," 1917,111, p. 44. 

4 See I, pp. 37-39. Cf. "Leaves of Grass," 1 855, p. 34. 

•See I, pp. 38, 39-44. «See I, pp. 73-74. 


excursions to the Great South Bay, 1 occasionally visited New 
York, 2 and mingled with every class of people. Once he wrote 
a bit of absurd doggerel, perhaps descriptive of himself. 3 Again, 
he preceded Stevenson by a generation in writing a frank and 
unabashed apology for idlers — philosophic idlers — like himself. 4 
Clearly his feet were already set on the Open Road, and hence- 
forth neither man nor woman would be able long to detain him 
in his journey through These States as a vagabond prophet of 
art, religion, and democracy. If in these Jamaica sketches he 
appears to lack reverence for man and for man-made conven- 
tions, it cannot be said that he was deficient in that sense of re- 
ligious awe which Carlyle always discovered in his heroes, 
whether men of letters or founders of religions. 5 

3. NEW YORK AND BROOKLYN (1841-1848) 

If it was fortunate that the nascent poet could spend the years 
between seventeen and twenty- two amidst the simple, whole- 
some conditions of country life, where, under the influence of 
work and play, of human contact and mystical meditation, he 
might with Dutch thoroughness lay the foundation of his future 
health and character, perhaps it was equally to be desired that 
the coming bard of democracy should spend the following years 
of his protracted youth in the heart of the metropolis. Con- 
cerning the next seven years of his life we know little except what 
Whitman has seen fit to tell us in his own writings or what has 
cautiously been entrusted to his biographers. Some of these 
writings have only recently come to light, and the mass of them 
— particularly the newspaper editorials — have never been given 
a really thorough examination by any competent person. Such 
neglect can no longer be excused by blanket allusions to the 
banality of his early prose; for whether a poet begin his success- 
ful singing at twenty or at thirty-five, the third decade of his 
life is always biographically important. 

The elements of Whitman's nature which were beginning to 
emerge into consciousness during the last period now assume 
more definiteness of expression. There he had dreamed of re- 
forming the world; now he seriously tries his hand at it. On the 
Island he had prayed for love, but prayed in vain; in the city he 
appears to have learned the language of love and friendship, 

^ee I, pp. 48-51. 2 See II, p. 87. 3 See I, pp. 2-4. 
4 See I, pp. 44-46. 6 See I, pp. 40-44- 


though it is not known that at this time he found any lasting 
lover or friend. His transcendental faith in the goodness and 
trustworthiness of nature now begins to lead him into spheres 
of indulgence that were in marked contrast to the asceticism of 
the previous period — spheres from which he later withdrew 
with aversion if not regret. 1 But all these experiences were the 
education of the poet, and they help to explain the weltschmerz 
and the discernment in his verse. In the preceding period he 
had slowly realized that his calling was literature; now he begins 
that intimate connection with newspapers, magazines, and books 
which one must look upon as constituting his chief apprenticeship 
as a writer. Of course Whitman's tenure of office in the news- 
paper world was likely to be no more permanent than in the less 
exacting realm of country schools. According to his own record 
he was connected — as compositor, contributor, or editor — with 
nine newspapers or literary journals in eight years, 2 besides 
writing a novelette and contributing to four magazines. If the 
ordinary criteria of success be applied, this was, without doubt, 
a bad record; but if Whitman's peculiar mission was, first, to 
be in himself a synthesis of life in America during the turbu- 
lent nineteenth century and, second, to express that life in a 
book more or less suggestive of its youth, its energy, its flowing 
picturesqueness, and its crude democracy, then the constant 
shifts whereby he was enabled to study life and nature from a 
multiplex viewpoint were, in the main, not only beneficial but 
absolutely necessary. During this period the youthful bigotry 
evidenced in his fondness for lecturing the world is gradually 
qualified by an increasing receptiveness to new and diverse im- 
pressions, until the time for his first true oracular expression 
comes in 1 847-1 848. No conventional duty is allowed to inter- 
rupt his lifelong habit of strolling amidst his kind — observing, 
sympathizing, "absorbing" — and thus forming, against the day 
of his authentic poetic utterance, the subconscious mystical 
synthesis to which I have referred. Thus his famous "cata- 
logues," which appeared in his prose before they were incor- 
porated in his verse, 3 assume a significance that is biographical 
as well as artistic. He missed nothing that was to be seen. He 
attended the theatre and the opera; 4 he studied the fairs and 

1 See Bliss Perry, he. cit., pp. 151-152. 

«See infra, p. xxvii, note 9. 3 See post, pp. bcii-bciii. 

*See I, pp. 143-144, I5*-I54i iS 6 "^ 8 * 2 55" 2 59; Hi PP- 97~ I ° I > *4 8 ; also "The 
Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 349-351, 359. 


exhibitions; 1 he patronized the public baths; 2 he was familiar 
with all the police courts and the slums; 3 he wrote crude special 
articles on Sing Sing, 4 on the hospitals, 5 the asylums, 6 the 
schools; 7 he attended picnics, 8 went on steamboat and railway 
excursions, 9 and was present to take part in political meet- 
ings and celebrations. 10 He attended lectures 11 and concerts, 12 
gazed in awe at the great city fires, 13 and loitered amidst the 
shipping 14 and on the ferries. 15 Wherever human life was 
"magnificently moving in vast masses," there was he to feel 
and absorb it. It was no accident, therefore, that he should 
have found much to attract and inspire him in the "average 
man" of the city, even as he had discovered the more obvious 
virtues of the countryman. 

His own life is still, as always, fundamentally complex. He 
can resist anything better than his own "diversity," which has 
as yet prevented any blending of his sentimental dreams of the 
past with his heroic prophecies of the future. He still broods 
on death and the grave; 16 he continues his puerile moralizing 
about children; 17 his imagination still consorts with angelic 
beings, as fanciful as those which called Poe father; 18 he vene- 

*See I, pp. 142-143; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 2, November 21, 1846; also "The 
Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 113-117, 363-365. 

*See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 3, 1847; a l so "The Gathering of the Forces," II, 
pp. 201-207, which is apparently in error in stating that Whitman remained in the bath 
twenty minutes, for in the Eagle of July 30, 1 846, he advises bathers to remain in the 
water at Gray's Baths not more than five or six minutes. 

*Cf. II, pp. 10-12. 

*See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 30, 1846. 

6 Cf. II, pp. 27-28, 291. 

8 See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June, 3, 9, 24, 1846; July 17, 1846. 

7 See I, pp. 144-146; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 4, September 5, 1846; also "The Gath- 
ering of the Forces," I, pp. 121-133, 136-145. 

8 See I, pp. 164-166; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 25, 1846. 

•See I, pp. 118-121; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 25, August 1, 1846. 

"See I, pp. 22-23; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July I, 2, 6, 1846, June 2, 1847, August 7, 

"See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 5, 6, 7, 1846; cf. p. 000. 

"See I, pp. 104-106 and notes; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 20, 1846; also "The 
Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 351-359. 

"Seel, pp. 154-156. 

"See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 9, June 27, 1846. 

15 See I, pp. 142, 168-171. 

"See I, pp. 60-67, 9 l ~9 2 > 108-1 10, 146-147; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 10, 1846. 

"See I, pp. 21, 91-92, 138-139; "The Gathering of the Forces," I, pp. 145-147. 

"See I, pp. 83-86, 86-89. 


rates more than ever the fathers of freedom; 1 and he resents 
the architectural reforms which would molest the ancient 
churches and other building sacred to his memories. 2 But, on 
the other hand, he cries out for progress along various lines and 
himself seeks to lead the way. Thus he was learning to be, not 
only a voice of the present complexity, but a link between the 
past achievement and the future hope. At the same time that 
he was growing to be a reformer without a party, an artist with- 
out a school, and a prophet without a cult, he was also translat- 
ing into the "American" language wisdom as old as the world. 
Not one of Whitman's contributions to the Aurora, the Sun, 
the Tattler, the Statesman, or the Democrat (all of New York) has 
as yet been unearthed; but fortunately we have complete files of 
the Brooklyn Eagle during the two years of his editorship. 
These old numbers of the Eagle make it clear that here as else- 
where Whitman was himself first and newspaper functionary 
afterward. And yet — perhaps for that very reason — it can be 
said that, like Greeley and Bennett, he went beyond the cur- 
rent conception of editorial opportunity and responsibility. 3 
Had his training fitted him for such a hearing as Greeley 
or Bryant obtained through the Tribune and the Evening 
Post, his influence upon journalism might have been as wide 
as his policy was far-sighted and individual. For to him a 
newspaper was a living thing, its readers individual human 
beings. 4 Sometimes his journal is the scourge of reform, purg- 
ing the temple of democracy; 5 sometimes it is an Athenian 
forum, resounding with discussions of the basic principles of 
good government; 6 at other times it is a humanitarian pulpit, 
defending the ignorant, the weak, the helpless; 7 now it is a 
college class-room, in which books are sifted and appraised, 
and their treasures disclosed; 8 now it is itself a miniature li- 
brary, stocked with poems, tales, novelettes, extracts, or "Sab- 
bath reading"; 9 again it is a political stump, from which the 
editor urges the claims of candidate or party with a vehemence 

»See I, pp. 22-23, 72-78, 95-96, 117-118. 2 See I, pp. 92-97. 
3 See I, pp. 1 1 5-1 1 7, 137; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 29, 1846. 
<SeeI, p. 115. 

6 See I, pp. 106-108, 108-110, 121-123, 125-126, 137, 152-154, 156, 162-163, 168-170. 
•See I, pp. 159-160, 166-168; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 14, 1846; also"The 
Gathering of the Forces," I, pp. 57-74. 

7 See I, pp. 106-108, 108-110, 138-139, 144-146; cf. II, pp. 9-12. 

"See I, pp. 121-123, 125-126, 126-137, 139-141, 163-164; cf. II, pp. 19-21. 

•See I, pp. 129-130, note. 


that passed with the youth of the nation; 1 finally, it at times 
becomes a man talking to other men, of the life he sees about 
him or of the life he foresees in the more or less distant future. 2 
No paper in the city, I think, attempted to cultivate so large a 
field of usefulness. If Whitman was often out of the editorial 
office, it was to become his own reporter, for he had none. 
If he neglected or ignored party politics at times, he was acting 
as his own musical or dramatic critic. If he occasionally broke 
away from the confinement of the city and had a loiter over 
the Island, he was at once renewing his youth and awaken- 
ing his self-interested city readers with country correspond- 
ence. 3 His style often left much to be desired, but certainly 
it was fresher and dealt with more important journalistic matter 
than was to be found in the pages of any Brooklyn contempo- 
rary. If the circulation of the Eagle really decreased during his 
editorship, as it is said to have done, 4 that fact no more dis- 
proves the value of Whitman's innovations than the popular 
neglect of the 1855 edition of the "Leaves of Grass" accurately 
rates the worth of that highly original book. However, the 
employer watched the "ninepences" 5 and laid store by them 
even if the editor did not, and so the time came when Whitman's 
intractability, when he swung the paper vigorously in line with 
the radical Barnburner or Free-soil wing of the party, gave Mr. 
Van Anden and the conservative bosses of the party a welcome 
opportunity to replace him with S. G. Arnold, 6 a more correct, 
conventional, 7 and docile editor. 8 The doggedness with which 
Whitman later issued his "Leaves," refusing to be persuaded, 
either by Emerson or by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, 

*See I, pp. 160-162,171-174; also "The Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 2-45. 

*See I, pp. 114-115,141-144, 151-152, etc.; also "The Gathering of the Forces," I, pp. 

25-26, 27-28. 

»SeeI, pp. 174-181. 

«By W. A. Chandos-Fulton in "The Local Press" (Brooklyn Standard, October 22, 

6 See I, p. 115. 

•A friend of Van Anden. 

7 Readers who approach Whitman's Eagle writings with the typical current concep- 
tion of the man and the poet in mind are likely to find them more conventional than did 
the readers of 1846. Yet there were plenty of sentiments expressed by the editor of the 
Eagle, even on such subjects as sex, education, and literature, which might as well have 
appeared in the pages of his contemporaries. This very conventionality, however, shows 
his later radicalism to have been deliberate, vision-inspired, rather than temperamental. 

8 For a somewhat fuller, but hardly a new, account of this episode see " The Gathering of 
the Forces," I,xxiv-xxxvi; II, pp. 179-186, 191-200, 203-208, 214-228. Cf. infra, p. xxviii. 


to modify it in deference to what he considered the low tone of 
public morals and taste, will be the occasion of no surprise to 
those who have followed his editorial history. Here he was 
right on nearly every question of public interest, he conscien- 
tiously strove to elevate the standards and to enlarge the whole- 
some influence of the press, he was public-spirited and fearless, 
and he knew not how to turn back from a course deliberately 
chosen. But when, in his casual, self-confident way, he se- 
cured his next employment, in New Orleans, it was to be in an 
environment as strange to the puritan in him as it was congenial 
to the indolent if wide-awake caresser of life. 

4. NEW ORLEANS (March— May, 1848) 

Few indeed were the facts known concerning Whitman's 
journey to New Orleans until very recent years. Whitman 
wrote for the New Orleans Crescent, but failed otherwise to 
preserve an interesting account of this trip, made by rail, 
mountain stagecoach, and river steamboat 1 ; but like other 
accounts born of novelty and child-wonder, it shrinks in size as 
its inspiration wanes, until, when the Father of Waters is 
reached, the prose ceases entirely, giving way to only an impres- 
sionistic little poem in conventional measures. 2 The narrative 
is entertaining, however, because of the light it throws upon 
the means of transportation common at the time, on the ap- 
pearance of the towns and rivers, on the incredible cheapness 
of living costs, the character of the inland inhabitants, and the 
promise the young poet saw in the West. 3 

Walt had left Brooklyn, with his fifteen-year-old brother 
JefF, on February 11; they arrived in New Orleans about 
ten o'clock on the night of February 25. The two weeks of 
varied travel were doubtless crammed with experiences of inter- 
est and enlargement for the virile and receptive child of New 
York. As for New Orleans, we know that it remained in Whit- 
man's memory as one of his three "cities of romance." 4 

1 See I, pp. 1 81-190. 

8 "The Mississippi at Midnight," the original version of which is to be found in the 
Yale Review, October, 191 5, p. 173. The six original stanzas are given also by Doctor 
R. M. Bucke in his "Notes and Fragments," pp. 41-42, where he adds two more. Still 
others are to be seen in " Complete Prose," pp. 373-374. 

'See I, p. 185; cf. pp. 151-152. 

4 See "With Walt Whitman in Camden," II, p. 29. 


The day after their arrival the Whitmans found a boarding 
house at the corner of Poydras and St. Charles streets, but to 
youths accustomed to the Dutch spotlessness of Madam Whit- 
man's housekeeping, the place seemed dirty beyond endurance. 1 
More comfortable quarters were soon found in the "Fremont 
house, next door to the theatre and directly opposite the office." 2 
It appears that a month later they were not living in New Or- 
leans proper, but in Lafayette, then a suburb. 3 Walt found 
the Fremont House convenient because there one might go to 
his meals as irregularly as one liked. 4 Occasionally, at least, 
his breakfasts were taken in the French market. 5 If any of his 
adolescent asceticism with reference to the use of coffee remained 
in 1848, it was to vanish before the delicious beverage he found 
in this market. 6 Many years afterward he recalled the superior 
wines of which the city had boasted, 7 but he either did not 
drink much in the spacious bar-rooms he loved to frequent 8 or 
else he concealed the -fact from his brother. 9 His dress was 
simple, but immaculate. 10 He was trying to save money, for he 
hoped to be able to send home enough to pay the interest on 
a loan; 11 and by the last of April he had, according to Jeff, 
"quite a sum." 12 His salary is unknown, but it must have been 
a very fair one for that time, for the amount saved would be in 
addition to all or a part of the two hundred dollars advanced to 
him in New York to cover travelling expenses and to bind the 
bargain. 13 Possibly, however, misunderstanding this as "expense 
money" instead of a loan (the agreement had been made in 
fifteen minutes), 14 he thought he had more to his credit than the 

I Manuscript letter from Jefferson Whitman to his mother, in the Bucke collection. 
* Ibidem. Cf. II, p. 77. 3 See I, p. 223. 4 See II, p. 77. 

"See "Complete Prose," p. 440. 

^Ibidem; see also I, p. 204. 

'See "Complete Prose," p. 440. Whitman had learned to like champagne before 
going to New Orleans (I, p. 165), though his brother George said "I do not suppose, 
Walt drank at all till he was thirty." (" In Re Walt Whitman," p. 36.) 

8 See "Complete Prose," p. 440; I, pp. 199, title. 

8 In a letter to his mother written on March 27, Jeff assures her that she need have 
no fear that they will fall victims to the then prevalent yellow fever, inasmuch as he 
attributes it largely to intemperance, and adds: "You know that Walter is averse to 
such habits." 

10 See I, pp.204, 208-209, "6; see also the 1 849-1 850 photograph in the Camden 
Edition of his works. 

II Walt Whitman manuscript, dated March 28, in the Bucke collection. 

n Jefferson Whitman manuscript, dated April 23, in the Bucke collection. 
18 See "Complete Prose," p. 188. H Ibidem. 


accounting office would allow. At any rate, though pleasantly- 
situated, he intended to return north as soon as he had saved a 
thousand dollars. 1 New Orleans interested him, but appar- 
ently it was no rival to his affection for his home. 2 

Whitman's work was in the editorial department of the Cres- 
cent, but, in contrast to much of his earlier experience, he was 
not sole editor nor even editor-in-chief. Besides him there 
were an editorial writer, a city editor, and a translator, his own 
principal duty being to "make up the news" with pen and scis- 
sors, though he also wrote some editorials and sketches. 3 He 
went to work about nine in the morning and got away from the 
office before eleven at night. 4 But he must have had his usual 
stroll about town within these hours — between the time for 
"copy" and that for "proofs" perhaps — for he sometimes cov- 
ered the recorders' courts (police courts) and collected material 
for his "Sketches of the Sidewalks and Levees." 5 Notwith- 
standing the pleasantness of his situation, it is difficult to see how 
a man of Whitman's habits, temperament, and training could 
have long continued to work harmoniously, even with affable 
co-labourers, in an office where his independence was left so un- 
protected by the indefinite division of labour. However, the 
break, when it came, was with his employers, and was occa- 
sioned by a difference over money matters and a (to Whitman) 
inexplicable estrangement between himself and the owners of 
the paper, Messrs. Hayes and McClure. 6 This difficulty, taken 
with the fact of Jeff's homesickness and indisposition and of 
Walt's own unrooted nature, sufficiently accounts for their de- 
parture homeward, only three months after their arrival in New 
Orleans. 7 

Whitman's writings of this period will be criticized in the 
following essay, but some of them, having biographical impli- 
cations, must also be mentioned here. With the exception of 
the single poem before mentioned, 8 Whitman wrote no verse on 
this Southern "jaunt," unless some of the "Leaves of Grass" 

1 See note 12, p. xlv, infra. 

2 On March 28 he wrote to his mother: "My prospects in the money line are bright. 
O how I long for the day when we can have our own quiet little farm, and be together 
again — and have Mary and her children come to pay us long visits." (Manuscript 
letter in the Bucke collection.) 

8 See II, p. 78. 

4 See I, p. 224; II, p. 77, note; also manuscript letter of Jefferson Whitman, dated 
March 14, in the Bucke collection. 

•See I, pp. 199-218. 8 See II, pp. 77-78; cf. pp. 165, 187. 7 See II, pp. 77-78. 

8 See infra y p. xliv, note 2. 


passages descriptive of the South were written at that time and 
preserved many years only in manuscript. 1 And even his prose, 
with a few exceptions, was uncommonly slipshod and inartistic. 
Perhaps he had never before been so typically a journalist as in 
these hasty and crude expressions of what he was seeing and 
feeling in New Orleans, impressions not crystallized but held a 
moment in solution ere they should be gone forever. It is 
therefore instructive to compare the anonymous record of his 
New Orleans life written at the time for a newspaper which 
could have been read by very few who knew him at the North 
— written with little expectation that it could ever be used to 
throw light on the evolution of a great poet — with his later 
culled reminiscences of that life published by that poet grown 
famous. 2 In these earlier sketches we recognize the Whitman 
familiar to the pilot-houses of the New York ferries and to the 
drivers* boxes of the Broadway stages. He roams among the 
cemeteries, 3 visits the old St. Louis Cathedral, 4 converses with 
the returning heroes of the Mexican War, 5 lounges in the 
spacious bar-rooms of the hotels, studying the picturesque 
cosmopolitanism of the types to be found there, 6 exposes the 
frauds of fake auctioneers, 7 strolls about the levee and con- 
verses with the river-men, 8 or satirizes human folly and drops, 
like Irving, a sympathetic tear upon misfortune. 9 But do these 
contributions to the Crescent reveal a romance of his own? 

Biographers who believe that there was a very significant 
Whitman romance in New Orleans in 1848 have based their 
conjecture largely on the following evidence: 10 

(1) In reply to persistent and disconcerting inquiries from his Eng- 
lish admirer, John Addington Symonds, concerning the inner meaning 
of some of Whitman's poems of affection, the poet wrote, on August 19, 
1890, the following rather cryptic sentences: "My life, young man- 
hood, mid-age, times South, etc., have been jolly bodily, and doubt- 
less open to criticism. Tho' unmarried I have had six children — two 

*See Bucke's "Walt Whitman," 1883, p. 136. 

•"Complete Prose," pp. 439-441. 

•See manuscript letter of Jefferson Whitman, dated March 14, in the Bucke collection. 

•See I, pp. 221-222. 6 See I, p. 225, and note. «See I, pp. 193-195. 

7 See I, pp. 199-202. 

•See I, pp. 213-216, 223-224; "Complete Prose," p. 440. 

•See I, pp. 199-218, 223, 225-228. 

10 Most of the passages in the present essay dealing with Whitman's love affairs are 
reprinted from an article which I published in the Dial (November, 1920), by whose 
courteous permission the reprint is made. 


are dead — one living, Southern grandchild, fine boy, writes to me oc- 
casionally — circumstances (connected with their fortune and benefit) 
have separated me from intimate relations." Horace Traubel re- 
corded a number of rather hazy allusions to the subject made in his 
presence by Whitman during the closing years of the latter's life, 1 
and both he and Mr. Thomas B. Harned have mentioned the old poet's 
promise to give them, his literary executors, a deposition concerning 
the facts of his "secret" — a promise which he never found the right 
mood for keeping. 2 

(2) Whitman's departure from this congenial Southern city, in 
which he had pleasant employment and good health, was so sudden, 
and the reasons which he gave for it seemed so inadequate, that some 
biographers have concluded that the real cause was to be found in a 
romance which threatened his prophetic and artistic independence. 

(3) Until recently none of Whitman's characteristic verse could be 
traced back beyond the 1848 journey to New Orleans, so that the ex- 
periences of this journey are sometimes taken to have been the inspira- 
tion that liberated his song. 

(4) A poem, "Once I Pass'd through a Populous City," seems to de- 
scribe a transitory residence in some large and picturesque city of 
which the reminiscent poet recalls only the passionate attachment of a 
woman who was broken-hearted at his parting. 

From these facts Mr. H. B. Binns, M. Leon Bazalgette, and 
others have elaborated a fairly complete story, with the result 
that it is now quite commonly assumed that Whitman did have a 
liaison in New Orleans in 1848. A young man of fine personal 
presence — so the story goes — he was seen by a Southern woman 
of high social standing, for whom to see him was to love him. 
This attachment, the chief responsibility for which (despite 
Whitman's confession to Symonds of his own culpability) is 
usually placed at the lady's door, in time bore fruit; but an ob- 
stacle to an open marriage with the middle-class Northern jour- 
nalist had been encountered in the pride of her family. Ac- 
cordingly some versions of the story suppose that there was a 
secret marriage (again despite the evidence of Whitman's 
letter to Symonds), and that the young husband was bound for 
life by a pledge of secrecy concerning the whole affair. Then, 
having learned in three months the mysteries of true love, and 

1 See"WithWaltWhitmaninCamden,"II,pp.3i6 ) 328, 425,510-511, 543; III, pp. 80, 
119-120, 140, 253, 364. 

'Horace Traubel has also told me of Whitman's surprise and confusion when the former 
one day called on the poet almost immediately after the departure of a visitor who, he 
was told, was Whitman's grandson (or son?). 


having learned to forswear them, he returned north and began 
composing the "Leaves of Grass." 

Now, Whitman may indeed have had an affaire de cceur in 
New Orleans, but in the light of new evidence we shall have 
to modify this explanation of how it all occurred and perhaps 
assign its date to a later journey to the South, even if we do 
not abandon the common theory altogether. First let us re- 
examine the evidence used by the biographers. As we have 
seen, the suddenness and the unlooked-for earliness of Whit- 
man's departure from New Orleans is adequately accounted 
for without supposing that a woman or her family had any- 
thing to do with it. As to the a posteriori evidence found in 
the maturer and more poetic verse which followed, it may 
be true that the first rhythmical lines of the "Leaves" were 
written shortly after the return North rather than just be- 
fore; 1 but they appear in a notebook containing the date 1847, 
to which year we must assign Whitman's first definite efforts 2 to 
compose the novel volume which was to see the light of print 
in 1855. The latter part of this notebook contains, 3 it is true, 
the first draft of the description of sexual ecstasy to be incor- 
porated in "Song of Myself" (Sections 28-30); but as to that, 
Whitman's letter to Symonds, in its studied indefiniteness, im- 
plies that the period of his "body-jolliness" included his earlier 
manhood as well. 4 There remains the evidence of the poem, 
"Once I Pass'd through a Populous City." This lyric prob- 
ably refers to New Orleans, but its original form 5 proves that 
it was first intended, not for a "Children of Adam" poem de- 
scriptive of the love between the sexes, but for a "Calamus" 
poem descriptive of that "adhesiveness," or attachment of man 
to man, which Whitman preached as a complement to his gospel 
of individuality, in his religion of sentimental democracy. 6 I 
suppose his reason for disguising the emotion which gave birth 
to this poem was the poet-prophet's desire to avoid a charge of 
effeminacy. But the important fact made clear by it is that a 
Whitman poem of tenderness addressed to a "rude and ignor- 
ant man" (doubtless a counterpart to the Pete Doyle of the 
Washington period) could, through slight emendations, become 

»See II, p. 63, note I. 

2 Unless still earlier notebooks have been lost. 

3 See II, pp. 72-73. 

♦See also John Burroughs's "Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person," 1867, p. 8i # 

5 See II, pp. 102-103. 6 See II, p. 96, note 4. 


a lyric of man-and-woman love on which biographers might 
unsuspectingly build a romantic story. The history of the 
poem goes far, I think, toward showing that Whitman retained 
in manhood some of the characteristics of the sexually indis- 
criminate affection of a child. And his ability to direct his 
romantic sentiments toward man as well as toward woman ac- 
counts, perhaps, for a certain indefinable attraction which 
healthy-minded men like Doctor Bucke no less than healthy- 
minded women like Mrs. Gilchrist have felt in his verse. The 
artist is expected to pass in his imagination from the man's 
point of view to the woman's, and back again, at will; Whitman 
is almost solitary among the major poets of the world — unless 
Shakespeare be an exception — in his tendency to do this with 
his heart. This peculiarity, he seems to have thought, was 
what made him akin to the great religious teachers of the past. 
But he also knew that such a nature would be misunderstood, 
and that it might even prove dangerous. 1 

But let us return to the problem of the New Orleans romance. 
It is now plain that if a woman entered Whitman's life between 
March and May, 1848, the fact, as well as her character and 
social position, must be established by other evidence. The 
letter to Symonds is apparently competent testimony, though it 
has at times been discounted as being either a fabrication or the 
result of hallucination; but it is not definite as to dates. 2 How- 
ever, some of Whitman's prose pieces written for the Crescent 
show how far he was from being insensible to womanly beauty 
in the social capital of the South. 3 Nine days before he left 
for home he published anonymously a humorous skit 4 describing 
his experiences at a masked ball where he met, and instantly fell 
in love with, a charming and cultivated lady, who, to his sudden 
discomfiture and chagrin, soon proved to be already married. 
Who, or what manner of woman, she was, it is of course im- 
possible to determine. She may have been one of the accom- 

*See II, pp. 96-97. 

J If the parent of the "Southern grandchild" were the offspring from a union which 
took place in 1 848, then his or her birth must naturally have occurred by 1 849. But an 
examination, extending down to 1850, both of the records of the Health Department of 
the city and of the archives of the St. Louis Cathedral, gives no clue to it. However, 
though all births were legally required to be entered in the former and though the 
baptismal records of the latter at that time included the majority of both legitimate 
and natural births in the city, neither record is at all complete. 

*See I, pp. 202-205, 222, 225-228. 

«"A Night at the Terpsichore Ball," I, pp. 225-228. 


plished vampires who infested the New Orleans of that day, 1 
who, finding that he had less wealth than his correct evening 
apparel 2 might have led her to believe, gave the wink to her 
accomplice-husband and thus shook him off. Or she may have 
been a married woman of social standing who sought in a ball- 
room flirtation momentary diversion from a domestic life which 
bored her. Or, on the other hand, the chance meeting may 
have proved more serious to her and to him than Whitman's 
light treatment of it would indicate. 3 It would be safer to pass 
the sketch by as merely an exaggerated, if indeed not a fictitious, 
account of the ludicrous mistake of an impulsive youth who, in 
printing it, could screen himself behind a nom de plume; but 
the testimony of one of Whitman's intimate friends 4 curiously 
corroborates this story if the latter be taken as the narrative of 
a real and serious attachment. In any case, something drew 
Whitman from his Northland again, 5 whether it was the "mag- 
net South" itself, or the "rude and ignorant man" celebrated 
in the hitherto misinterpreted poem (and presumably also in 
"I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing"), or the original of 
the photograph of the "sweetheart long ago" which hung in his 
den in Camden. 6 

iSee "New Orleans as It Is," by a Resident (New Orleans), printed for the publisher, 
1850, pp. 38-39. 

»See I, p. 226. »See I, p. 216, note. 

* Mr. Francis Howard Williams, who is reported (Philadelphia Record, August 12, 
1 91 7) as saying: "Walt was sensitive when people asked him why he never married. He 
talked pretty freely to me about his personal affairs. There was one woman whom he 
would have married had she been free; that was the married woman he met in his sojourn 
in New Orleans when a young man. Her husband knew of their love, too, I believe." 
It is possible that this woman has been confused with a lover whom Whitman had in 
Washington. See I, p. lviii. 

6 See II, p. 59, where Whitman mentions having visited other Gulf states than Louisi- 
ana. Cf. Bucke's list of states visited (Joe, cit., p. 136), which includes Texas. But 
the 1848 journey is accounted for in detail, and did not include Texas (see II, 
pp. 77-79, and also Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist's "Anne Gilchrist, Her Life 
and Writings," London, 1887, p. 253). On the whole it seems probable that Whitman 
had visited Texas on a later journey to the South. In the list of newspapers to which 
he had contributed,Whitman included one in Colorado which he thought was the Jimple- 
cute ("Complete Prose," pp. 1 88-1 89). In " Slang in America" he alludes to " The Jimp- 
lecute, of Texas" {Ibidem, p. 409). Now, there is not, and so far as I can discover 
never was, a paper by that title in Colorado; whereas there has been, since 1865, 
a Jimplecute published at Jefferson, Texas. Another hint that Whitman had made 
journeys of which we have no definite record is to be found in a casual allusion to 
the fact of his having explored the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (Brooklyn Times, 
February 4, 1858), which he could hardly have done on the 1848 journey to New Orleans. 
See also "Complete Prose," p. 251. 

•See II, p. 60. 


Whether this journey brought an entanglement into his life 
or not, it was important in that it opened his eyes to the spirit 
and the prospects of the great West and of the South; it helped 
to make of him, even during reconstruction times, the poet 
of the whole people; and it introduced him to experiences until 
then strange to his eye and soul. 

The return journey was, naturally, a little longer in point 
of time than the journey southward had been. A week was 
spent on a Mississippi steamboat in reaching St. Louis. 1 Chi- 
cago was given a cursory inspection. 2 Lakes Michigan and 
Huron were traversed and the Niagara Falls were gazed upon in 
unrestrained awe. 3 The scenery along the banks of the Hudson, 
south of Albany, he pronounced the grandest he had ever be- 
held. 4 At five o'clock on Wednesday, June 15, he was at 
home again — four months after his departure, one month of 
which had been spent in travelling. 5 

5. BROOKLYN (1848-1862) 

Whitman had been in Brooklyn but a week when, in the 
Whig press, appeared rumors of a Barnburner paper to be 
started in that city, with Whitman as editor. 6 The Eagle had 
refused to open its columns to reports of the proceedings of the 
radical Democrats, and this had determined Judge Samuel E. 
Johnson 7 and other Brooklyn Free-soilers to start a paper of 
their own. This weekly 8 paper, the Freeman, was burned out 
in a great fire which swept the business section of the city on 
the night after its very first issue. 9 There was no insurance, 
but the paper was revived after two months. 10 On April 25, 
1849, ^ was changed to a daily, its staff was apparently in- 

1 See "Complete Prose," p. 441. * Ibidem. I See II, p. 79. « Ibidem. 

6 Ibidem, and cf. "Complete Prose," pp. 442-443. 

•See Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, June 23, 24, 1848. 

7 See Henry R. Stiles 's "History of the City of Brooklyn," 1870, III, p. 938; also 
Chandos-Fulton's "The Local Press," Brooklyn Standard, November 5, 1864. 

8 The Freeman was first published at no Orange Street, later at 96 Myrtle Avenue, 
at Fulton and Middagh, and on Fulton near Myrtle. See II, p. 3, note 1. 

•September 9, 1848. See Brooklyn Evening Star, of that date, also II, p. 254. 

10 When the paper was again commenced, on November I, Whitman said in it: "The 
fire which burnt us clean out, as we began at our former place, completely deranged the 
arrangements previously made. We had not much to lose; but of what we had not a 
shred was saved — no insurance. This time we are determined to go ahead. Smiles or 
frowns, thick or thin, we shall establish a Radical Newspaper in Kings County. Will it 
remain to be said that the friends of Liberal Principles here give it a meagre and luke- 
warm aid?" (Quoted in the Brooklyn Evening Star, November 1.) 


creased, 1 and its circulation extended. However, Whitman's 
valedictory, full of bitter defiance toward his enemies, appeared 
within the year (September n, 1849). 2 Persistent search has 
failed to bring to light a single copy of this short-lived sheet. 
Had we a file of it, perhaps we should discover evidences of 
Whitman's growing hatred of the spread of slavery, such as we 
do not expect to find in the Crescent. Possibly, too, we should 
discover some lost verse. 

For during this period Whitman was experimenting with new 
forms of verse. The "Isle of La Belle Riviere," 3 what would 
now be called an imagist poem, was written on Blennerhasset 
Island, in the Ohio, in 1849 or I ^5°> 4 possibly on a second jour- 
ney to the South. The political lampoon, "Song for Certain 
Congressmen," 5 appeared in Bryant's Evening Post on March 2, 
1850, over the pseudonym "Paumanok." This was an un- 
poetic thing, but not because of unconventionality in form. 
In the same month, however, Whitman published his first 
free verse, "Blood-Money," republished it after a few weeks, 6 
and two months later followed it with other poems in the same 
form: "The House of Friends," 7 and "Resurgemus." 8 All of 
these poems, it should be noted, were inspired by indignation 
at political injustice or treachery, the "Song for Certain Con- 
gressmen" being occasioned by rumours of Webster's coming 
defection from Free-soil principles, and "Blood-Money" by 
his Seventh of March speech 9 and the Fugitive Slave Law. 
Thus political rather than personal events seem to have been 

*Mr. Daniel M. Tredwell, in his "Personal Reminiscences of Men and Things on Long 
Island" (Brooklyn, 1912, II, p. 212), says that on March 12, 1848, he engaged to take a 
position on the Freeman under Whitman, and that on April 25, the new sheet came out 
and was much complimented. He confuses the daily with the weekly, and so his dates are 
just a year too early. Mr. Tredwell was then a law student, and was engaged to write 
up the court-house news for the new daily, at ten dollars a week. 

s Quoted in the Eagle, September 11 : "After the present date, I withdraw entirely 
from the Brooklyn Daily Freeman. To those who have been my friends, I take oc- 
casion to proffer the warmest thanks of a grateful heart. My enemies — and old Hunk- 
ers generally — I disdain and defy the same as ever. Walter Whitman." 

8 See I, pp. 24-25. 

«See I, p. 24, note. Since Whitman's whereabouts can now be stated definitely for the 
period before September, 1849, and for that after June, 1850, whereas we know nothing 
of his movements between those dates (unless the publication of " Blood-Money " on 
March 22 be significant) it seems to me very likely that a second trip South was made 
in the fall of 1849. 

6 Title changed to "Dough-Face Song," "Complete Prose," pp. 334-335. 

•In the New York Evening Post, April 30. 

7 1, pp. 25-27. s I, pp. 27-30. 

*Whittier's "Ichabod," similarly inspired, appeared a few days later. 


hurrying Whitman toward his destined career as a reformatory- 
poet. "Resurgemus" is the earliest separate and complete 
poem of the "Leaves of Grass" known to have been previ- 
ously published. It indicates that Whitman's poetic ambition, 
which for two or three years had been "hovering on the flanks," 
as he said, is now leading him into unconventional publications 
and straight toward the versification of 1855. 

Concerning Whitman's employment in 1 850-1 851, biographies 
have never agreed. Some of them, following Whitman himself, 
have placed the Freeman venture in these years; others have 
supposed this to have been the period of his house-building. 
Neither statement is correct. Apparently Whitman was as 
much a journalist as ever; but now, instead of being in charge of 
a paper, he had to resort to what odd jobs he could get. In May 
andJune,i85o — perhaps for a longer period — he had some anony- 
mous connection with the Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, a Whig 
sheet, for which he wrote a series of "Paragraph Sketches of 
Brooklynites," 1 much of which was to be worked over in the 
"Brooklyniana" of 1 861-1862. Just how much he wrote for the 
Advertizer is unknown, but mention should be made of a signed 
editorial in it 2 which he published to urge the city to build a sys- 
tem of water works, an improvement which came within a few 
years. During 1 85 1 he wrote five prose contributions for the New 
York Evening Post, most of them signed "Paumanok." 3 I 
think it likely that it was Whitman also who contributed 
the Brooklyn notes to the " City Intelligence " column of the 
Post in 1 851-1852. At any rate, the indications are that the 
pen, rather than carpenter's tools, was yet his chief source 
of income. The making of an income, however, was far from 
the dominant concern of this crescent poet, whose first-born 
song was soon to be delivered in a world unprepared to receive 
it. He took an increased interest in art and in artists, 4 entered 
familiarly into the hopeful Bohemia of his day, 5 and, in pleading 
at once for art in life and life in art, 6 he took a definite step 
toward his own authentic career. A fortunately preserved 
specimen of Whitman's operatic criticism — of Bettini in "La Fa- 
vorita" 7 — not only reveals his ecstatic sensitiveness to the 

iSee I, pp. 234-235. 
»"A Plea for Water," I, pp. 254-255. 

•See I, pp. 236-238, 239-241, 247-249, 250-254, 255-259. «See I, pp. 236-238, 
241-247. 6 See I, p. 237. 
•See I, pp. 236-237, 241-247. 'See I, pp. 255-259. 


charm of this tenor, whose singing was gratefully remembered 
for forty years, 1 but also the mystical exaltation he felt in 
contemplating the grandeur of nature, both of which con- 
tributed, perhaps, to the profound mystical experience which 
by biographers has commonly been assigned to Whitman's 
early thirties. It is only natural that his style should gradually 
become more serious, tempered, mature, and attractive. 2 But 
one is not to conclude that Whitman was merely an artist 
engrossed with his art or a mystic withdrawn from life. Even 
in an address to an "art union" he deliberately takes occasion 
to satirize the want of taste displayed in American fashions 3 and 
the want of poise and dignity in American manners, 4 while in the 
"Letters from Paumanok" 5 he describes with appropriate sim- 
plicity the "powerful uneducated persons" he encounters while 
summering on east Long Island. Nor was Whitman's contact 
with the real world — so imperatively demanded as a counter 
influence to his artistic and religious subjectivity — limited to 
mere observation or to sympathetic "absorption." He was a 
public-spirited citizen, proud of his American birthright and 
determined to exercise it, in a day of half-achieved democracy, 
in shaping his city more to his liberty-loving heart's desire. 
When, in 1854, the Common Council and the Mayor of Brook- 
lyn undertook to forbid the running of street cars or the open- 
ing of restaurants, and otherwise to enforce by law the strict 
observance of the Sabbath, Whitman, the individualist, ad- 
dressed a memorial 6 to the city fathers protesting in no slavish 
tones against prohibitory and meddling puritanism in the city 
administration in general, and against the restrictions imposed 
upon street railways, bakeries, and restaurants in particular. 

The year 1855 was > °f course, a turning point, or rather a 
date of metamorphosis, in the life of Whitman. Through a 
long development, brought to a climax by mystical experience, 
he had attained the immortal youth of spirit which one associ- 
ates with the creative artist. He still dreamed, but his dreams 
were thenceforth no longer mere rapturous observation; instead 
they were the pregnant dreams of a seer. He continued to 
preach, but now with an authority unlearned of the scribes. 

»See "Complete Prose," pp. 427, 499, 514-515. 

»See I, pp. 234-235, 236-239, 241-247, 255-259, 259-264. »See I, pp. 246-247. 

«See I, p. 245; cf. pp. 168-170. »See I, pp. 247-249, 250-254. 

•See I, pp. 259-264. 


The new poetry, however, made no popular headway, and was 
absolutely unremunerative. As a result the poet was forced 
to remain a journalist as well. 

At some date not later than June, 1857, 1 he became editor of 
the Brooklyn Daily Times, 2 a position which he retained as late 
as January, 1859. 3 He continued to be interested in his poetry 
and in its dissemination, seeking even to have it translated into 
the German. 4 This divided interest accounts, at least in part, 
for the fact that his Times editorials were more detached, remi- 
niscent, judicial than had been his compositions for the Eagle. 
Occasionally his editorials throw light on his poetry. His dis- 
cussion of the evils of prostitution, 5 for example, not only re- 
veals an advanced interest in sociology, but it gives also a hint as 
to why, in the i860 edition of his "Leaves of Grass," he was to 
emphasize what he considered the normal and healthy physiol- 
ogy of sex. That his motive in this was to combat the unclean 
prudery to which he traced much of the shockingly preva- 
lent vice of the day, and not to celebrate free-love, is indicated 
by his strictures on free-love in another editorial. 6 His socio- 
logical interest often took him, as previously in Brooklyn and 
New Orleans, to the police courts, in his reports of which he 
mingles a motherly tenderness with his satire. 7 Such sketches 
place the stamp of utter sincerity upon poems like "You Felons 
on Trial in Courts" (i860). 8 . . . This is the period in his 
life when, if ever, Whitman might be expected to feel the need 
of a home of his own. Perhaps he did, momentarily at least; 9 
but the most congenial atmosphere that he found was that of 
PfafFs bohemian restaurant, 10 where he discussed politics, art, 
and literature with a group of young writers as ambitious as he, 
but less gifted. Believing (like Longfellow and Lowell) that 
no other poet in America was attempting to perform the task 
assigned to himself, 11 he uncovered his heart more and more 
unreservedly in his verse, in comparison to which the man he 
exhibits in the cafes and on the streets is but a shadow. 12 As 

1 See II, p. i, note. 

2 Then published at 145 Grand Street, Williamsburg. 

•See II, p. 1, note. 4 Ibidem. *See II, pp. 5-8. 

•See II, p. 7, note. But cf. "With Walt Whitman in Camden," III, pp. 438-439. 

7 See II, pp. 10-12. 

8 "Leaves of Grass," 1917, II, p. 160. 

•See II, p. 19. 10 See II, pp. 92-93. "See II, p. 91. 12 See II, p. 93. 


his peculiar mission becomes clearer to him, its religious nature 
grows in importance, until he regards himself as the prospective 
founder of a religion comparable to Christianity itself, though 
humbly acknowledging his indebtedness to both the Hebrew and 
the Greek. 1 By this time Whitman is a full-fledged Hegelian — 
pragmatic, transcendental, evolutionary. 

During i860 Whitman was engrossed in the publication of 
the first Boston edition of his poems; but when the outbreak of 
the war stopped the sales of his book, he turned again to the 
newspapers for a livelihood. While editing the Brooklyn Times, 
he had written an article reminiscent of the early days in Brook- 
lyn, 2 which showed that he was drawing inspiration from the 
past as well as from the future. 3 Now he proposes to elaborate 
the idea by publishing, in the Brooklyn weekly Standard, 
a series of articles on the history of the city. This claimed to 
be something of an innovation for the press, 4 but Whitman was 
nothing if not an innovator. The "Brooklyniana" papers 5 
were copyrighted and eulogistically advertized by the Standard* 
and, if we may take the word of the editor for it, they were well 
paid for. Their publication was interrupted, however, while 
Whitman took one of his characteristic rambling journeys to 
his old haunts on Long Island 7 — fishing at Montauk Point, 8 
living with idyllic unceremoniousness among the country and 
fisher folk, 9 making himself a boon companion, 10 and studying 
with a poet's eye the beauties of nature. 11 Nor was this really 
out of character in the man who was soon to be so closely con- 
nected with the horrors of the war that was already raging. I 
think Whitman had a prophetic sense of the fact that his own 
life, like that of his country, was near a historic turning; and he 
was here taking a lingering farewell of beloved scenes which, 
after the war, he should never be able to look upon with the 
same eyes again. ... He had barely concluded the twenty- 
five articles in the series when an accident — the wounding of his 
brother George, erroneously reported as serious — called him to 
the war front, and so introduced him to his life of composite 
service as a "welfare worker" and surgeon's helper, on the 
battlefield and in the Washington hospitals. 12 

^ee II, pp. 91-92. 2 See II, pp. 1-5. »See I, pp. 246-247. 

4 See II, p. 223, note. 

8 See II, pp. 222-321. «See II, p. 223, note. 7 See II, p. 222, note, 306-321. 

sSee II, p. 313. 'See II, pp. 313-321; cf. I, pp. 247-254. 10 Ibidem. 

u See II, pp. 314, 3i7~3 1 8, 320. 

12 See II, pp. 21-22, 27-29, 33-34, 93. 


6. WASHINGTON (1863-1873) 

In camp and on the battlefield Whitman not only received 
impressions which were later to be coined into the incomparable 
little poems of " Drum-Taps," 1 but he formed associations which 
developed his sensitiveness to manly friendship. 2 In the pres- 
ence of death he learned a new lesson in immortality, 3 and saw, 
as before he had only dreamed of, the spiritual resources of the 
painfully unifying nation. 4 Returning to Washington with the 
wounded, he devoted a moiety of his time to supporting himself 
by contributions to the New York and Brooklyn papers 5 and 
by copying for Major Hapgood, an army paymaster 6 ; but his 
real interest lay in the pathetic and heroic sights of the hos- 
pitals 7 and in the picturesque spectacles of the capital in war- 
time. 8 His realistic descriptions of these will not be lost on a 
generation of readers who have themselves just emerged from an 
unromantic conflict. To Whitman the Civil War was not a 
mediaeval adventure, its tragedy obscured by chivalric glamour, 
but a great spiritual struggle for national ideals, in the light of 
which alone its inhuman horror was endurable. 9 At times he 
doubted the success of the Union cause, 10 as he at times doubted 
the success of his own poetic mission; 11 but when the forces of 
nationalism finally brought the war to a victorious close, he had 
deep cause for rejoicing, inasmuch as he loved the South as he 
loved the North. 12 These war-time letters and the descriptive 
articles sent in 1873 to the New York Daily Graphic 13 throw much 
light upon the passing show that attracted his outward eye. 
But underneath his entertaining exterior Whitman was suffer- 
ing a private disappointment, if not indeed a tragedy. 14 He 
passionately loved a woman who was, like Thackeray's inamor- 
ata, married to another. 15 This attachment (possibly but not 

»See II, p. 93. *See II, pp. 21, 93, 96 and note. *See II, p. 22. 

•See II, pp. 23, 30-31, 102; cf. I, p. 156. «See U > PP- 2 3> 26-29, 2 9~3 6 > 37~42- 

•See II, pp. 23, 25. Later he had a clerkship, first in the Interior, and later in the 
Attorney-General's, Department. 

7 See II, pp. 22-23, 2 7~ 2 9> 3 1 - 8 See II, pp. 22-23, 2 5> 2 ^~3^y passim. 

•See II, pp. 22, 30-31; cf. p. 43. "See II, pp. 26, 101. 

"See II, p. 101. "See II, pp. 21, 102. 13 See II, pp. 42-49, 49 _ 53- 

14 See "With Walt Whitman in Camden," II, p. 543. 

16 In the original draft of the article, "Personal Recollections of Walt Whitman," 
which Mrs. Ellen M. Calder (formerly Mrs. William D. O'Connor) wrote for the Atlantic 
Monthly (June, 1907) appears a very important but for some reason unpublished passage. 
The manuscript from which I quote is in the Bucke collection. 

"He [Whitman] had met a certain lady, and by some mischance a letter revealing 


probably a continuation of the one commonly associated with 
New Orleans) ended unhappily, 1 but it seems to have given 
birth to a considerable amount of Whitman's poetry dating 
from this period. 2 Moreover, during the latter part of his 
residence in Washington his emotional attachment to his own 
sex threatened to destroy the poise and aplomb of his life. 3 
But disappointment, physical affliction, and struggles with him- 
self finally brought peace to his passion-torn heart and serenity 
to his poems. 4 

7. CAMDEN (1873-1892) 

The war over and recorded in the 1867 volume of poems, the 
hospitals closed and summed up in the "Calamus" and "Wound 

her friendship for him fell into her husband's hands, which made this gentleman very 
indignant and jealous, and thereupon, in the presence of his wife and another lady, he 
abused Walt. All that excited Walt's sympathy for the lady, over and above the admi- 
ration and affection he felt for her, so that in telling about it, he said 'I would marry that 
woman to-night if she were free.' Correspondence was kept up between them for some 
time after that, and he was very strongly attracted to this lady. This is the only in- 
stance I have known where he was strongly attracted toward any woman in this way. 
It was this lady for whom he wrote the little poem in 'Children of Adam' beginning: 
'Out of the rolling ocean, the crowd,' etc. 

"Describing this lady to me he said that she was quite fair, with brown hair and eyes, 
and rather plump and womanly and sweet and gentle, and he said that she bore herself 
with so much dignity and was so keenly hurt by what her husband said, that I think 
that drew her to him more. It was in '64 (?). 

"In connection with the above: — The idea that he conveyed to me was that he did not 
think it would have been well for him to have formed that closest of ties, he was so fond of 
his freedom, it would have been a great mistake if he had ever married. He said to me 
many times that he did not envy men their wives but that he did envy them their chil- 
dren. He often used this expression,, 'Well, if I had been caught young I might have 
done certain things or formed certain habits.'" 

It will not escape the reader that practically all our trustworthy evidence on Whit- 
man's romance points to a married woman as his paramour. If by such a woman, or 
women, he actually had offspring, then the enigmatic language of his confession to Sy- 
monds would grow clearer. It would mean that, on the birth of the child, the three 
principals in the tragic triangle agreed to keep the matter quiet, sacrificing their own 
individual feelings in the interest of the legal, social, and financial "benefit" of the 
innocent child. Yet it should be remembered that the very existence of these children 
rests entirely upon the testimony of Whitman himself. 

1 See II, pp. 94-96. 

2 See second note above; cf. also "To a Certain Civilian" (1865), "Not Youth Per- 
tains to Me" (1865), "O Me! O Life!" (1865), "Ah, Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky 
Retreats" (1865), and "I Heard You, Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ" (1865-1866). 
See also II, p. 93. 1 

3 See II, p. 96. 

«See, in particular, "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun" (1865), "Passage to India" 
(1871; Part 5, at least, was written before January 20, 1869), "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" 
(1865), "Darest Thou Now O Soul" (1868), and "Prayer of Columbus" (1 874). 


Dresser" letters and in the notes for "Specimen Days," Whit- 
man was, in 1873, stricken with paralysis. He removed to 
Camden, New Jersey, in which his sun, that had witnessed 
such an expansive, tragic, hopeful half-century, was to set 
twenty years later. From his invalid's chair he wrote down 
scraps of ideas for friendly New York journals like the Daily 
Graphic, discussing art, poetry, the drama, culture, politics, de- 
mocracy. 1 A few years before his death he indulged in one 
of the anonymous self-criticisms 2 with which he had earlier 
sought to extend the knowledge of the inner meaning of his life 
and work. These reminiscences review the whole of his varied 

Thus, in the writings brought together for preservation in the 
present volumes, one can trace Whitman's personal and literary 
growth from his youth up, revealed all the more candidly in 
publications and manuscripts which he never wrote for preserva- 
tion over his own name. In particular, the collection increases 
our knowledge of the following hitherto obscure periods in his 
biography: (1) his youth and apprenticeship, (2) his residence at 
Jamaica in 183 9-1 841, (3) his single attempt at fiction, (4) his 
connection with the Brooklyn Eagle, 1 846-1 848, (5) his trip to, 
and his life in, New Orleans, together with his romances, there 
or elsewhere, (6) his connection with the Brooklyn Advertizer, 
the New York Tribune, the New York Evening Post, the Brook- 
lyn Times, and the Brooklyn Standard, and (7), most important 
of all, the growth of the First Edition of the "Leaves of Grass." 

1 See II, pp. 53-58. 

2 See II, pp. 95-62. 



i. Relation of His Prose to His Verse 

It was not by publishing the "Leaves of Grass," at the age of 
thirty-six, that Whitman began to be either original or eccentric. 
Though in varying degrees, his prose is as truly individual as 
his verse. One finds it possible, indeed, to trace many of the 
faults and virtues of his poetry back to his earlier prose. As 
much was to have been expected, though as yet nobody has in- 
quired particularly into the matter. Whatever unanalyzable 
influx of vision, of taste, or of power may have come to Whitman 
through the mystical experiences of mid-life, the utterance of 
his enlarged being was conditioned by what he had previously 
been. For when it introduces genius as a veritable deus ex 
machina, biography degenerates into superstitious hero-worship. 
Genius there is, else there would be fewer occasions for biography; 
but we can make no progress by asserting that genius is superior 
to the laws of causation, albeit their operation may lie deeply 
hidden from the eyes of even the man of genius himself. The 
critic, no less than the biographer, needs to be familiar with 
the writings of Whitman's youth, regardless of their intrinsic 
interest or value. 

2. Difficulties in Studying Whitman's Early Prose 

In tracing Whitman's poetic peculiarities to his earlier prose, 
difficulty is encountered in determining the precise limits of his 
responsibility. Most of the prose included in the present col- 
lection comes to us either in the form of manuscript or in the 
form of magazine and newspaper writing. But since the manu- 
script was seldom, if ever, used in its present form for publishing 
copy, it is unfair to suppose that it represents Whitman's ideal; 
and though he himself read the proofs of most of the newspaper 



writing here reprinted, 1 there was still abundant opportunity 
for typographical variation from his copy or proofs. Moreover, 
we must keep in mind the haste in which newspaper writing 
was done in the day of small editorial staffs. 1 The frequency 
and the uniformity of some of the peculiarities of his prose, how- 
ever, are enough to convince us that Whitman tolerated them, 
if indeed he did not insist upon them. 

3. The Mechanics of Writing 

His system of punctuation, for instance, was unique. Neither 
his contemporaries nor the newspapers on which he had served 
his apprenticeship punctuated just as he did. There was a 
meticulousness about it which sometimes defeated its own ob- 
ject. A parenthesis seldom sufficed, but it must be reinforced 
with commas. 3 . . . Throughout his entire career as a prose 
writer Whitman relied as much upon the dash as Poe did in 
his verse, and that without Poe's excuse for overworking the 
careless and ineffective mark. This abuse of the dash (some- 
times to emphasize the period) appears in one of his earliest man- 
uscripts as prepared for the printer. 4 It occurs in his editorials, 6 
and in his formal memorial to the City Council. 6 From his 
mystical notebooks 7 it passes naturally into his free verse. 8 It 
agrees so well with his habit of panoramic observation, 9 with 
his style of rapid, terse, suggestive description, 10 and with his 
emotional periods 11 that it must be taken to have been char- 
acteristic of his mental processes. Sometimes the dash is em- 
ployed at the beginning of the paragraph, as if to accentuate 
the break in the thought. 12 Frequently the period and dash is 
abandoned in favour of the French series of points, 13 indicating 
a feeling for precision of form — even where the general effect is 
so deliberately indefinite! — which I have not observed in the 

*In some cases he did the composing himself, though not often. He was his own 
compositor on the Long Islander and his one-time office boy, Mr. William S. Sutton, 
has told me that when editor of the Eagle Whitman was very particular about his proofs. 

a See I, p. 116. 

•See I, pp. 174, 176, 179, 181. This style of punctuation was more common in 
the eighteenth century than in the nineteenth, and might have been taught Whitman 
by much older men, like William Hartshorne. 

«See II, pp. 97-101. s See I, pp. 117-118, 121-125, 144-146.. 

• See I, pp. 263-264. 7 See II, pp. 63-68. 

• See II, pp. 91-93. »See I, pp. 141-144, ^93~ l 9S> "3-224; H, pp. 25, 47-48. 
"See I, pp. 107, 140. "See I, pp. 72-73, 172-174, 242, 245, 256-257, 263-264. 
12 See I, pp. 110-113, ii4-"7» i74-*77- 

"See I, pp. 126, 137, 139, 140-144, i47» *$$-*&» i59~i6o> 223-224; cf. pp. 27-30. 


contemporary press. This habit of expression led naturally to 
the mystical synthesis of his poetic "catalogues" 1 wherein he 
attempts to suggest a unifying principle by a rapid sketching of 
its variant manifestations, very much as the effect of motion is 
produced, in the cinema, by the rapid sequence of a multitude of 
photographs. Too frequent use of the dash, however, tended to 
confirm in Whitman the habits of carelessness and incoherence 
which his lack of any thorough apprenticeship in writing made 
inevitable. His punctuation at times really obscures his mean- 
ing, as in the following sentence: 

Which of those friends or relatives can say — I have, on my conscience, 
none of the responsibility of that man's intemperance and death? 2 

Like Poe again, Whitman was fond of using italics for the sake 
of emphasis, both in passages that are serious 3 and in others 
that are humorous, 4 satirical, 5 or facetious. 6 

4. Grammar 

The poet, says Whitman, is a man gifted with the divine 
power of using words; and by that definition he was himself cer- 
tainly often a poet. But such divinity became articulate in him 
only after a long struggle with a devilish liability to misuse the 
language. Sometimes he is not even grammatical. 7 The 
verbs lie and lay give him constant trouble. 8 In a leader on 
the opportunity of the editorial writer, he allows "it don , t. ,,9 
Elsewhere he says, "myself and Colby sprang," 10 "with I and my 
companion," 11 "learning him to read," 12 "as if our world was 
weak," 13 "some of ye," 14 "all the hitherto experience of The 
States," 15 "ain't," 16 "the then time," 17 "most all," 18 "plen- 
tier," 19 "the persons largest engaged in whaling." 20 Many of 
these crochets Whitman was slow in outgrowing. An early 
manuscript concludes: 

1 See I, pp. 223-224, 242, 263-264; II, p. 42. 2 See II, p. 164. 
»See I, pp. 4, 66, 73, 117, 126, 149, 159-162, 180. 4 See I, pp. 174-177. 
•See I, pp. 178, 205. «See I, pp. 33, 177, 201, 203. 

7 Whitman was once called upon to defend his grammar in the Eagle. See "The Gath- 
ering of the Forces," II, pp. 7-12. 

«SeeI, pp. 6, 47, 66, 187. 9 See I, p. 116. 10 See II, p. 121. "See I, p. 253. 
12 See I, p. 145. 13 SeeI, p. no. 14 See I, p. 94. 15 See II, p. 58. 
16 See I, p. 115. 17 See I, p. 75. 18 See II, p. 41. 19 See I, p. 154. 
20 See I, p. 120. 


So, friendly reader, we have filled our column, more or less, with a 
visit, us two, to the Italian opera with you, etc. 1 

But as late as 1862, when he was forty-three, he could commit to 
print so slovenly a sentence as this: 

Ah, if these occurrences, and the foregoing names are perused by any 
of the remaining old folks, their contemporaries, we (then a boy of 
twelve years), have jotted down, above, they will surely have some 
curious, perhaps melancholy reflections. 2 

Reflections shared, no doubt, with a difference, by the twentieth- 
century admirer of Whitman. . . . Sometimes Whitman 
was careless of the idiom of the language, as in such expressions 
as "inculcate on," 3 and "akin with." 4 Many of these sole- 
cisms can be accounted for, I think, by the fact that, since he was 
a slow thinker, 5 Whitman did not have time in his journalistic 
prose for the painstaking revision which was given to his verse. 

5. Diction 

The besetting sin of Whitman's early prose is its lack of 
restraint. Readers of his "Slang in America" and his "Amer- 
ican Primer" know how eagerly he quested about for words, 
and how successful he was in his etymological predictions. 6 
But in the period to which belong most of the selections in these 
volumes, he collected and employed words and phrases, including 
colloquialisms and slang, with very little judicial discrimination. 
Particularly when he is attempting to be "funny/' slang comes 
natural to his pen, 7 sometimes but not always enclosed between 
apologetic quotation marks. The following will illustrate: 
"His arm must have ached some," 8 "used to did," 9 "he went it 
with a rush," 10 "loaded down to the guards," 11 " a great place and 
no mistake," 12 "the thing," 13 "b'hoys," 14 "whaler," 15 "they do 
say," 16 "doff my beaver," 17 "tympanums" (ears), 18 "to go" 
(to risk), 19 "bones" (money), 20 "conceited spark," 21 "not to be 

■See II, p. lot. 2 See II, p. 296. 3 See I, p. 220. 4 See I, p. 284. 
8 See "With Walt Whitman in Camden," I, p. 249. 

"See Mr. H. L. Mencken's "The American Language," New York, 1919, pp. 73, 320. 
'"Slang was one of my specialties," said Whitman to Traubel. ("With Walt Whit- 
man in Camden," I, p. 462.) 
8 SeeI, p. 118. 9 SeeI, p. 205. 10 Ibidem. « See I, p. 206. 

"See I, p. 224; cf. p. 193. 13 See I, p. 208. 14 See I, pp. 194, 195. 
"Seel, p. 50. " See I, p. 215. "See I, p. 44. "See I, p. 45. 
"Seel, p. 201. ^See I, p. 223. 21 See I, p. 33. 


beat/' 1 "some pumpkins," 2 "diggins," 3 "her Irish gets up," 4 
"passes" (mesmeric). 5 Rarely Whitman combines slang with 
a pun, as in " It is doubtful whether Cairo will ever be any 'great 
shakes,' except in the way of ague." 6 

Foreign terms had for Whitman the fascination they often 
possess for young writers unacquainted with any but their 
mother tongue. Most of these borrowed expressions are from 
the French and occur in the New Orleans sketches. Occasion- 
ally his pseudo-learnedness becomes mere barbarism, as when 
ecaille is used for ecaillers? Sometimes these borrowed words 
and phrases are employed as slang in English; sometimes they 
are introduced to give a superior air to the page. Such diction, 
of course, becomes infinitely tedious, as in this sentence from 
the unspeakably affected "Samuel Sensitive": 

It was a present to Julia, that Sam had, with due consideration of 
the consequences, resolved to abstract forty dollars and upward from 
his oyster and billiard account, and bestow it in a beautiful, enameled, 
filagree, morceau of bijouterie, whose value, intrinsically, per se, was 
perhaps about six bits. 8 

But at times he has difficulty with the diction of his own 
tongue as well. Not infrequently he falls into malapropisms as 
nonchalant as they are naive. He says "unpretensive" for 
"unpretentious," 9 "locale" for "location," 10 "peril" for "im- 
peril,"" " vocable" for "vocal,"* 2 "deathly" for "deadly," 13 
"fixings" or "fitments" for "fixtures," 14 "merchantable" for 
"mercantile," 15 and he declares "obfusticated" to be an 
expressive word. 16 

Whitman's later fear of "stock poetical touches" is to be 
matched by his avoidance of conventionality in his early prose 
diction, an avoidance which betrayed him into an excess of 
colloquialism. Perhaps it is an indication of his desire to keep 
near "the people" 17 as distinguished from the colleges and the 

^ee I, p. 119. 2 See I, p. 183. 3 See I, p. 177. 

4 See I, p. 216. 5 See I, p. 216. 6 See I, p. 189. 

7 See I, p. SIX. Unlike most printers, Whitman was not a very accurate speller when 
young. This is so obvious that I have not called particular attention to it here; yet it 
had a bearing on his use of malapropisms, and may have awakened his interest in sim- 
plified spelling later in life. 

8 See I, p. 216. »See II, p. 49. 10 See II, p. 35. ■ See I, p. 97. 

12 See I, p. 201. 

"See II, p. 119. 14 See I, p. 170; II, p. 46. "See I, p. 218. "See II, p. 187. 

17 See II, p. 105. 


critics. Whatever his motive, such expressions as "without 
these follow," 1 "bless their stars," 2 "considerable of a trading 
town," 3 " we will e'en just have to give the go-by," 4 and "genteel 
squirts" 5 are sufficiently removed from literary conventionality. 
The following sentence flows so naturally from Whitman's 
pen, and so negligently, as to create a presumption that he 
spoke very much after this fashion: 

Every person attached to the road jumps on from the ground or some 
of the various platforms, after the train starts — which (so imitative 
an animal is man) sets a fine example for greenhorns and careless people 
at some future time to fix themselves off with broken legs or perhaps 
mangled bodies.6 

Nearly all these colloquialisms have been quoted from writ- 
ings belonging to the period of Whitman's maturity; in youth he 
was, both as poet and as prose man, at times ridiculously con- 
ventional and affected in diction. Sooner than did his Victorian 
ancestor, the modern reader wearies of such expressions as "I 
bethink me," 7 "certes," 8 "ycleped," 9 "wended," 10 "he remem- 
bered him of," 11 "pale emblems of decay," 12 "the gentle orbs 
of benevolence and philosophy," 13 "we trow," 14 "aneath," 15 
"haply," 16 "it wonders me," 17 and "whilome." 18 

It would thus be easy to make game of Whitman's early 
diction, were that my purpose. He himself found fault 
with it, and omitted the present writings from his collected 
editions. These faults are pointed out rather to show from 
what limitations Whitman, in his best work, freed himself, and 
also to make it clear that if crudities and blemishes are dis- 
coverable in his more ambitious work they should furnish no 
cause for wonder, no occasion for strained justification. Con- 
sidering his opportunities, Whitman possessed, even in his 
younger days, a very comprehensive vocabulary. All of life 
was language to him, and he saw life from many angles. The 
faults, like the virtues, of his diction are largely traceable to the 
unlimited range of his interest. A vocabulary adequate to the 
needs of the many types of prose with which he experimented 
was in itself an achievement in self-education. What Whit- 

1 See I, p. 145. 2 See I, pp. 149, 164. *See I, p. 176. <See II, p. 52. 

»See II, p. 68. «See II, p. 307. 'See I, p. 103. "See I, pp. 119, 174 

"See I, p. 211. 10 See I, pp. 48, 90. u See I, p. 84. B See I, p. 80. 

13 See I, p. 125. "Seel, p. 116. 16 See I, pp. 93, 160. "See I, p. 73. 

17 See I, p. 80. "See I, p. 183. 


man needed was a strong inspiration to awaken the slumbering 
fires of his soul. When he had it, his diction became clear, 
picturesque, and forceful, sometimes even beautiful, 1 but when 
it was lacking — when he did hack work or wrote in a dreamy, 
undisciplined manner — his diction frayed off most immorally. 2 

7. Types of Prose 
a. The News-Story 

In attempting to classify roughly the varied prose compo- 
sitions contained in the present volumes, it will be convenient to 
begin with the news-story. But the use of the modern termi- 
nology must not be taken to imply that in Whitman's day the 
news-story had been influenced by the technique of the short- 
story; indeed it can scarcely be said to have had any recognized 
technique of its own. The reporter had to rely upon his wit to 
see something picturesque or important in the doings of the 
day; or, if this were lacking, something on which he might 
witticize, moralize, or sentimentalize. Such writing tended 
greatly to develop Whitman's sense of individual freedom, but 
it did not afford him, on the other hand, the rigid discipline 
whereby a modern newspaper office sometimes supplies the 
want of a college education. His own reports vary greatly in 
interest and significance. The earliest we have, 3 which belongs 
in his twentieth year, is in no way indicative of promise or 
power. As he grew older he was inclined to moralize on the 
passing events he recorded. 4 His purpose in visiting the 
police courts, for instance, was to hold a mirror up to lowly life 
and to play Rhadamanthus to culprit and court alike. 5 Except 
in the form of the news-editorial, the news-story gave Whitman, 
however, little opportunity to display his best prose. Fortu- 
nately, therefore, he was (so far as we know) never a mere 
reporter; 6 and when, in New Orleans, he was the "scissors 
editor," 7 he was inclined to write an editorial on an event 8 or 
else to let the exchanges do the work for him. 9 And so 
ardent a reformer was he that no chance was missed to cull 

1 E. g., I, pp. 102-103, 107-108, 154-156, 168-170, I7I-174, l8l-l86, 220-221, 
236-238, 24I-247, 255-259; II, pp. I I2-I20, 320. 

2 E.g. t I, pp. 44-46, 117, 211-213, 216-218; II, pp. 53-58, 97-101. "See I, p. 32. 
«See I, pp. 141-144, 221-222, 223-224, 236—238. 6 See II, pp. 10-12. 
•Unless such was his position on the Brooklyn Advertizer or the New York Evening 
Post, 195-198, 218-219, 220-221. See infra, p. liv. 

1 See II, p. 78. 8 See I, pp. 195-198, 218-219, 220-221. 9 See I, p. 229. 


from the exchanges news-stories that would keep before his 
readers the brutality of the slave trade, the inhumanity of 
capital punishment, the excesses of Abolitionism, the dangers 
of intemperance, or the absurdity of Fourierism. 1 But occasion- 
ally, as if by way of compensation, he writes of a picnic 2 or 
excursion 3 in a chatty, colloquial vein no longer possible to the 
reporters for the metropolitan press. In these stories, as in his 
editorial correspondence 4 and his war reporting, 5 the perennial 
boyishness in him refuses to abase itself before the dignity of the 
editorial tripod. 

Now and then Whitman would attempt something a little 
more pretentious — a sort of special article before the day of the 
special article. He would visit a prison, 6 a hospital, 7 an 
asylum, 8 the Navy Yard, 9 or a school 10 and write a long descrip- 
tion of it from the point of view of a curious-minded rambler 
about town or that of a public-spirited guardian of the welfare of 
the state. Once he described a great fire in New York, 11 with 
a vividness that suggests his treatment of the same theme in 
verse. 12 

b. Essays and Sketches 

More or less similar to his news articles are his essays and 
sketches of various types. The earliest of these are the puerile 
"Sun-Down Papers" 13 which Whitman contributed to the 
Jamaica weeklies in 1 839-1 841. It is to be hoped that the five 
missing numbers of this series will yet be discovered, but the 
seven anonymous essays in this volume throw most welcome 
light on their author's development. Had we a file of the 
Long Islander running back to the period of Whitman's editor- 
ship, or could we identify the "piece or two" which he declared 
himself to have contributed to George P. Morris's Mirror^ 
the "Sun-Down Papers" would be slightly less important than 
they are; as it is, they are practically the earliest of his publica- 
tions extant, and they illuminate a most interesting stage in 

x See I, p. 229. 2 See I, pp. 48-51, 164-166. »See I, pp. 118-121. 

«See I, pp. 174-181, 247-254. eSee II, pp. 26-41; cf. pp. 21-26. 

•See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 30, 1846; cf. also II, p. 274. 

iCf. II, pp. 288-292. 

8 See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 3, 9, July 17, 1846. 

• Ibidem, June 27, 1846, January 30, 1847; cf. March 9, 1846. 

"See infra, p. xli, note 7. "See I, pp. 154-156. "See I, p. 154, note I. 

13 See I, pp. 32-5 1 . 14 See " Complete Prose," p. 1 87. 


his growth. The style is very uneven. At times it is slip- 
shod, 1 defiant, 2 .sentimental, 3 or given to moralizing and to 
"castigating the age/' like the "Salmagundi Papers" but without 
their grace and good humour. 4 But at other times it is rhyth- 
mical though not restrained, and once, at least, the young 
author is inspired and achieves an allegorical "dream," 5 done 
partly in the eighteenth century and partly in the Biblical 
manner, a device which Whitman was to employ repeatedly in 
his prose 6 and which may have had some connection with his 
dream and trance passages of his verse. 7 Attention has already 
been called to the fact that these early sketches give us our first 
intimation of Whitman's life-long ambitions for authorship. 

When this dreamy, kind-hearted, sensitive young man goes 
to the city in 1841, his writing continues to express the senti- 
mentality of the "Sun-Down Papers," but it also displays an 
increasing amount of, as yet, unharmonized realism. The 
combination is significant in that it persists, in more artistic 
form, in his "Leaves of Grass" itself. In "The Tomb-Blos- 
soms" 8 the full sentimentality of that tearful age expends itself 
over the unhappy lot of an immigrant widow mourning beside a 
grave. In "The Little Sleighers" 9 the mood is more natural 
and healthy, but even here the spirited description of a cold 
morning on the Battery cannot end without a most inappro- 
priate (and, considering the temperature, a most unconvincing) 
fit of moralizing on the threadbare themes of youth and inno- 
cence. "Tear Down and Build Over Again," 10 a sentimental 
plea for the preservation of historic old buildings, reminds us 
that, though Whitman as philosopher and patriot was radical 
enough, as poet he was deeply rooted in the past and its mani- 
fold associations. "A Dialogue" 11 passionately arraigns the 
institution of capital punishment, particularly the justification 
of it on Biblical grounds. In this argumentative essay Whitman 
employs the method of an imaginary dialogue between a con- 
demned murderer and society, somewhat in the Socratic man- 
ner; and it is not without its effectiveness, 12 despite the author's 
obvious prejudice. In this reform, however, Whitman cannot 

1 See I, pp. 44-46, 46-48. 2 Ibidem. 'See I, pp. 35-37. 4 See I, pp. 32-34. 
8 See I, pp. 39-44. 'See I, pp. 74-78; II, pp. 200-204. 
'See II, pp. 70, 71, 74; "The Sleepers" and "Song of Myself," passim. 
8 See I, pp. 60-67. 9 See \, pp. 90-92. 10 See I, pp. 92-97. n See I, pp. 97-103. 
12 Another good example of Whitman's impassioned argument is "American Working- 
men versus Slavery," I, pp. 171-174. 


be credited with originality or leadership, for he was but follow- 
ing such men as Bryant, Whittier, Greeley, Hawthorne, and 
others who were making of it a crusade in the 1840's. 1 Another 
essay of the sentimental-disputatious type is that entitled 
"Boz and Democracy." 2 In it he acknowledges his obligation 
to Dickens, an indebtedness which perhaps appears in the pica- 
resque elements of "Franklin Evans," 3 though one hesitates to 
lay "Franklin Evans" in any measure at Dickens's door. The 
influence of "Boz" consisted chiefly in his exhibition of the 
humanitarian opportunities of the "democratic writer," whose 
pages tend to "destroy the old land-marks which pride and 
fashion have set up, making impassable distinctions between 
the brethren of the Great Family." 4 Here we have, also, the 
earliest expression of Whitman's conception of the "average 
man" and of that "philosophy which teaches to pull down the 
high and bring up the low." 5 By insisting upon human sympa- 
thy in the literature of a democracy, Whitman was, of course, 
holding a brief for the future. Another essay looking in the 
same direction was the "Art-Singing and Heart-Singing" 6 which 
he wrote in 1845 ^ or P° e ' s Broadway Journal. The naive 
manner in which he here writes on the subject of America's 
need for a native style of music, even while confessing his entire 
ignorance of music as an art, indicates that no lack of special 
or detailed information is to restrain the coming prophet from 
delivering his message, addressed to the spirit, rather than to 
the lower intelligence, of his people. 7 

Still another sort of essay is found in the "Sketches of the 
Sidewalks and Levees," 8 which portray the motley types of 
humanity that filled the romantic city of New Orleans in 1848. 
In general plan they appear to be imitations of the Addisonian 
"characters," but they make no pretentions to grace or elegance 
of expression, even degenerating at times into a careless and silly 

1 See II, p. 15. In August, 1846, Whitman ran serially a story of circumstantial evi- 
dence by Robert Treat Irving ("John Quod, Esq."). 

2 See I, pp. 67-72. 

3 To be published in the latter part of the same year (1842). 

♦See I, p. 68-69. * Ibidem. See also II, p. 10. 8 See I, pp. 104-106. 

7 The conclusion — "These hints we throw out rather as suggestive of a train of thought 
to other and more deliberate thinkers than we" — gives us, no doubt, the psychological 
reason for his complacent declaration, "Let others finish specimens — I never finish 

8 See I, pp. 199-218. 


facetiousness unworthy of detailed study. 1 But these sketches 
show Whitman's tendency at the time to substitute humorous 
satire for his earlier preachments, and they reveal also his 
powers of shrewd, if unselective, observation. He is beginning 
to study life in a more objective way; he is seeing men as 
types. When he discovers in himself a typical, though not an 
"average," man, subjective and objective treatment will 
blend in one of the most strangelv composite books of modern 

The essays written from Washington, descriptive of the army, 
the city, the Capitol, and the Congress, 2 are naturally the most 
mature, picturesque, and lifelike in our collection. One finds 
an unusual delight in observing the nation's capital through the 
eyes of the nation's poet, 3 and one enjoys, as he evidently en- 
joyed, the contrast between the functions of the legislator and 
those of what he would have called the litterateur.* But in "The 
Christmas Garland" (1874) 5 we have only hasty patchwork, 
suggestive in detail but all too evidently the work of a hand 
which illness has robbed of its cunning. That Whitman him- 
self recognized this is shown by his determination to select 
only a few passages for preservation. The last essay, "Walt 
Whitman in Camden," 6 and the curtain speech, "The Old 
Man Himself," 7 reveal how little the poet had altered in his 
fundamental conception of himself as he approached old age and 
death. The same self-confident spirit which, forty years before, 
had announced, anonymously, "Yes; I would write a book! 
And who shall say that it might not be a very pretty book?" 8 
here looks back upon a life guided by one imperious ambition 
and concludes, as it were, "So, you see, I did write a book; 
and who shall say that it isn't a very pretty book?" There is 
something of childlike naivete in such detachment as this in so 
subjective a poet as Whitman — perhaps it was but a compensa- 
tory result of his deep subjectivity. And yet there is in it just a 
suggestion of secretiveness where one looks for candour, a sort of 
harmless but private joke at the reader's expense. There is in the 
essay one significant sentence, which throws emphasis upon the 
need for such a study of Whitman's early newspaper work as 

1 See especially I, pp. 211-213, 216-218. 

2 See II, pp. 26-29, 29-36, 37-41, 4 2-49> 49~53- "See II, pp. 29-36. 

♦See II, pp. 42-53. 6 See II, pp. 53-58. 

"See II, pp. 58-62. This appeared over a pseudonym. 

7 See II, pp. 62-63. *Cf. p. 37. 


the present volumes make possible: "It is perhaps only be- 
cause he was brought up as a printer, and worked during his 
early years as a newspaper and magazine writer, that he has put 
his expression in typographical form, and made a regular book 
of it, with lines, leaves, and binding." 1 The distinctly dotage- 
like self-importance of "The Old Man Himself" causes the 
reader to hesitate between regret that Whitman's illness should 
have spared him to write such pitiable prose and, on the other 
hand, wonder that he should have had courage to play the 
game to its realistic end, he who had determined to express in 
writing a complete life, not merely its best and happiest mo- 

c. Narrative 

In fiction and other narrative Whitman was rather less 
successful than he was in the essay or sketch form. He could 
make a rough drawing of a type, but he could not delineate a 
character. Moreover, the incubus of a puritan purpose marred 
nearly every bit of fiction he ever wrote. This betrayed him 
into neglecting his plots and the dramatic qualities of his 
story, even though he did sometimes imitate Poe to the 
extent of seeking unity of impression. The artist could 
never emancipate himself completely from the preacher and 
propagandist. This is true of "Bervance," 2 a tale of paternal 
aversion and enforced insanity, as well as of "The Last of the 
Sacred Army," 3 a legend designed to inculcate a sentimental 
sort of hero-worship. In "Franklin Evans" 4 the moral not only 
kills the story, but it is not even justified by the argument of the 
story, wherein a youth who is an ingrate, a drunkard, a criminal, 
an unfaithful spouse, and all but a murderer succeeds in shuffling 
off the coil of his intemperance through no particular effort of 
his own, in time to inherit a fortune he in no wise deserves. The 
same insistent didacticism lays its blight upon each part of the 
narrative — even upon episodes or imbedded tales which, like 
"The Death of Wind-Foot," 5 had enough interest in themselves 
to tempt Whitman to republish them, 6 and which, but for the 
young author's riding the Washingtonian crusade too hard, 
might have afforded momentary relief from the unrelenting 
melodrama of the novelette. Whitman professed to believe 

1 See II, p. 6a. « See I, pp. 52-60. » See I, pp. 72-78. 

«See II, pp. 103-221. B See pp. 1 12-120. 6 ,See II, pp. 11 1, note 2, 181, note I. 


that in this blending of morality with art, preachments with 
fiction, he was discovering a new field for the novel! Or per- 
haps he meant that he was the first fictionist to employ the 
novel in this particular propaganda. In reality what he was 
doing was to serve a low grade of diluted fiction to a provincial 
people unaccustomed as yet to take it straight. Whitman 
himself was too honest a writer, however, not to outgrow such a 
conception of art, 1 and he lived to write satirically of melo- 
drama like this. 2 Nevertheless his capacious philosophy 
refused to condemn it entirely, finding a function for it as the 
strong diet of the uneducated masses. 3 . . . Despite its 
autobiographical interest, "The Shadow and the Light of a 
Young Man's Soul" 4 is difficult reading, so full is it of puerile 
moralizing, while "A Legend of Life and Love," 5 a plea for the 
wholehearted acceptance of life notwithstanding its manifold 
risks, is without a single artistic touch to ameliorate its plati- 
tudes. Even stories so deliberately fanciful as "The Angel 
of Tears" 6 and "Eris; A Spirit Record," 7 for any intrinsic 
value, deserved to die in the age of sighs that gave them birth. 

In simple narratives without such specific moral intent 
Whitman makes a closer approach to readable prose. "An 
Incident on Long Island Forty Years Ago," 8 "A Fact Romance 
of Long Island," 9 "Excerpts from a Traveller's Note Book," 10 
the second "Letter from Paumanok," 11 and certain passages in 
the "Brooklyniana" are homely but interesting stories, told 
with zest and a degree of skill. "A Night at the Terpsichore 
Ball" 12 is marred by cheap attempts at humour, but it has a 
genuine, if crude, feeling for definiteness of effect. 

It would be inaccurate to describe the " Brooklyniana* ' 

1 Whitman is reported by Traubel as having said to him, in 1888: "Parke Godwin and 
another somebody (who was it?) came to see me about writing it. Their offer of cash 
payment was so tempting (seventy-five dollars down and fifty more when the book had 
an unexpectedly large sale) — I was so hard up at the time — that I set to work at once 
ardently on it (with the help of a bottle of port or what not). In three days of constant 
work I finished the book. Finished the book? Finished myself. It was damned rot — 
rot of the worst sort — not insincere, perhaps, but rot, nevertheless: it was not the busi- 
ness for me to be up to. I stopped right there: I never cut a chip of that kind of timber 
again." ("With Walt Whitman in Camden," I, p. 93.) The fact remains, however, 
that Whitman reprinted the story four years later in the Eagle, with editorial endorse- 
ment. There is also some evidence that Whitman was the "Brooklynite" who wrote 
a tragic Indian story dealing with summary punishment, called "The Half-Breed," 
for the Eagle, beginning with June I, 1846. 

J SeeI, pp. 122, 140; II, pp. 19-21. 3See II, p. 20. 4 See I, pp. 229-234. 

5 SeeI, pp. 78-83. «SeeI, pp. 83-86. 7 See I, pp. 86-89. 8 See I, pp. 149-151. 

•See I, pp. 146-147. 10 See I, pp. 1 81-190. u See pp. 250-254. 

"See I, pp. 225-229. 


as a serial history of Brooklyn. It was full of "personal 
chronicles and gossip" concerning matters of local interest 
written in an easy, chatty style; but after all it was news-writ- 
ing and not history. As has been intimated, Whitman had been 
collecting his material for years, 1 but his thinking was com- 
prehensive rather than systematic or thorough, he wrote with- 
out adequate plan, his information was drawn from various 
but limited sources, and his style was that of the journalist 
whose ears ring with the cries for more "copy." Hence he re- 
peats, rambles, pads his narrative with statistics 2 and with 
quotations which (particularly the very lengthy one from Mary 
L. Booth's "History of New York") 3 emphasize both the limita- 
tions to his knowledge of his field and the weaknesses of his 
style. The methods of securing "suggestion, atmosphere, 
reminder, the native and common spirit of all" 4 which he em- 
ployed more or less successfully in his verse would hardly 
serve in prose history. This relative impotency in prose 
doubtless had exerted a strong, even if unconscious, influence in 
causing him to adopt prose-verse as his main vehicle of ex- 
pression; for, though he had begun to write verses by his 
twentieth year, he never looked upon himself as a born poet in 
the sense that Poe and Longfellow and Lowell regarded them- 
selves, and, as we have seen, he once said the fact that he had 
expressed his message in print of any sort was due to an acci- 
dent of training. 5 But the " Brooklyniana" articles are far from 
worthless, notwithstanding their deficiencies as conventional his- 
tory. They are largely memoirs, given at first and at second 
hand, and pretend to be little more. As such they give compe- 
tent testimony on many points of local history; they breathe the 
spirit of the city in which Whitman passed his youth, and reveal 
what that city meant to the maturing man; they supply the 
earliest account we have of certain events in his life, and do this 
with a freedom possible only to the anonymous writer; and, 
in many passages, they possess an antiquarian interest which, 
like the pleasantness of good wine, will increase with age. 

d. Speeches 

The present collection contains the text of one of Whitman's 
speeches and the peroration of another. With such scanty 

1 See infra, p. Ivii, and I, 234, note; II, p. 223, note. 2 See II, pp. 250-251, 291-292. 
8 See II, pp. 301-306. 4 See II, p. 63. 6 See II, p. 62. 


evidence one cannot draw dogmatic conclusions as to his 
ability as a public* speaker. Much of his early prose is de- 
clamatory, however, some of it to such a degree as to create a 
presumption that it was composed aloud even if it were not at 
some time intended for a speech. 1 If we may judge from the 
Art Union address, Whitman did not rely on impromptu in- 
spiration or any native ability to "think on his feet" or even to 
adapt his thinking to the conditions of delivery. His lectures 
would have been orations rather, or perhaps public readings 
of essays. 2 

The speech in the Park 3 indicates the young orator's personal 
independence, his devotion to the cause of his party, his interest 
in ideal issues, and his faith in the outcome of those issues. His 
style is amateurish, his employment of periods and vision 
sophomoric. His appeal is not to self-interest, to shrewd 
common sense, but to that American idealism concerning which 
he was to express his doubts in the Art Union address 4 and 
of which his "Leaves of Grass" was to be perhaps our best 

In the "Art and Artists" speech he has a more promising 
theme — too broad, no doubt, but handled so as to produce a 
certain unity of impression. In this address he shows a com- 
mand of a variety of moods, passing from satire to anecdotes, 
from burlesque to eloquent and inspiring appeals to heroic 
action. Perhaps the most noteworthy fact about the address 
is its natural combination of prose with a specimen of the free 
verse on which he was then experimenting and which he had 
already begun to publish. Some devices, such as allitera- 
tion, the parallel construction, and aphorisms, are common to 
both. But the careful reader will observe that there is a 
rhythm peculiar to the verse; the difference is not an accident of 
printing. And he will also observe that even in quoting from 
Bryant's blank verse Whitman manages to extort a movement 
of syllables not unlike his own. There is a close kinship be- 
tween Whitman's prose intended for oral delivery and his free 

1 See, e. g., II, pp. 102-103, 172-174, 263-264. 

2 1 think there can be no doubt that the text of this Art Union address was furnished 
the Advertizer by Whitman himself. It is also known that when, in the later 1850's, 
Whitman contemplated a lecture tour, he intended to sell the lectures in pamphlet form 
for a nominal price. 

'See I, p. 51. 

4 See I, pp. 241-247. 


verse; but, as will presently be shown, the one is not the real 
origin of the other as Professor Carpenter surmised. 1 

e. Memorial 

The tone of Whitman's memorial to the Mayor and the City 
Council 2 is dignified and public-spirited; but it savours too much 
of his contempt for the whole race of office-holders 3 and is too 
overtly a sermon to them in public to have had any effect in 
constructive legislation. 4 His democratic jealousy of govern- 
ment as a rival to individual liberty in the realm of personal 
morals (and, pari passu, of th# general as opposed to the local 
government) had root, no doubt, in his own independent 
nature and in his early political training; but it may have been 
intensified by reading Emerson and by his brief residence in the 
South. Whitman never allowed his abstract attitude of 
sympathy for the slave to drive him into a denial of the minority 
rights of the several states, 5 though he could hardly go all 
the way with Calhoun. 6 In the special issue involved in the 
memorial Whitman, in seeking to preserve the Sabbath for man 
rather than man for the Sabbath, took a position which the 
history of municipal government in America as increasingly 

f. Editorials 

More important than any or all of the forms of prose com- 
position we have noted in shaping Whitman's prose style, were 
his newspaper editorials, both because for twenty years they 
were his most common form of communication with his public 
and also because they afforded him his best opportunity to ad- 
dress that public in his personal, hortatory, or didactic manner. 
He conceived of his readers as his personal, if anonymous, friends, 
in whose physical, intellectual, aesthetic, and moral education 

*In his "Walt Whitman," English Men of Letters Series, 1909, pp. 43 - 44« 

2 See I, pp. 259-264. 

*Cf. "Complete Prose," pp. 204, 217, 252. 

«See I, p. 259, note. 6 See I, pp. 156, 162; II, pp. 10, 57. 

•See I, p. 162. Cf. "Complete Prose," p. 69. In 1846, however, Whitman admired 
Calhoun very much. On May 14 of that year he said editorially in the Eagle: "We 
like a bold honest morally heroic man! We therefore like John C. Calhoun * * * 
We believe that a higher souled patriot never trod on American soil* * *." (See 
"The Gathering of the Forces, " II, pp. 191 -192.) 


he was more concerned than he was in their financial support. 1 
Of course the editor of a party organ in those days was re- 
quired to furnish a considerable amount of "grave political dis- 
quisition," particularly about election time; but Whitman 
frankly states that for this more "dignified" part of his editorial 
labours he has little relish. 2 Whatever his accomplishments as an 
editor, he had definite ideals for the editorial function. 3 The 
true editor, he says, must possess a free and untrammeled spirit, 
unbiased by fear or convention. His mission is to reform 
and to enlighten, to inspire and to guide. He must not set too 
high a value upon patience, poise, deliberation. In shaping 
his style he must seek polish and elegance less than earnestness, 
spontaneity, terseness — the vital fluidity of impromptu oratory. 
So Whitman thought in 1846; but some years later, after the 
appearance of the second edition of his "Leaves of Grass," and 
when he had learned to place a proper emphasis upon poise 
as well as upon youthful fervour, upon literary style as well as 
upon mere sincerity of purpose, he gratefully acknowledged 
the leadership of Bryant in improving the tone of journalistic 
prose. 4 At last he had come to perceive the relation between 
style and morals, and this perception had helped to harmonize 
in him the preacher and the artist. But in 1846 Whitman re- 
garded content more than form. He thought that the editor 
should have an inexhaustible fund of general information, par- 
ticularly concerning his own country. 5 This editorial necessity 
must not be underrated as an influence not only in Whitman's 
painstaking, if rather unsystematic, self-education, but also 
in his unusually wide familiarity with the life of his fellow men. 
Thus Whitman's editorials naturally covered a wide range of 
topics; but there were certain subjects that recurred so fre- 
quently in his leaders and elsewhere as to indicate a predilec- 
tion for them. One of these was education, concerning which 
he had three fixed opinions: (a) education should be more 
generously supported and more carefully supervised, 6 (b) 
moral suasion and inspirational methods should supplant the 
time-honoured flogging system, 7 as they had done in his own 
school-room and in those of Transcendental teachers like Alcott 

J See I, pp. 114-117. «SeeI, p. 115. *See I, pp. 114-117. 

«See I, p. 115, note. *See I, p. 115. 

6 See II, pp. 13-15; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 16. 184.6; "The Gathering of the 
Forces," I,pp. 121-145, passim. 

'See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 12, September 3, 1846; also "The Gathering of the 
Forces," I, pp. 144-145" 


and Thoreau, and (c) the curriculum should not be based upon 
the custom or authority of the past alone, but should be adapted 
to the largest needs of the future citizen of a democracy. 1 His 
hatred for sham in education was matched by his disgust at sham 
everywhere. 2 Another subject of frequent recurrence was 
America's tendency to ape the Old World in music, 3 art, 4 
literature, 5 manners 6 , and the drama 7 . Another was the dangers 
of materialism, whether in the form of African slavery 8 or in the 
more alluring guise of ordinary money-making. 9 Other fa- 
vourite themes were: the abolition of capital punishment, 10 the 
evils of intemperance, 11 sympathy for the unfortunate and the 
criminal, 12 a living wage for working women, 13 the ennobling 
influence of the gentler sex, 14 the beauty and educative function 
of nature, 15 the greatness and the origin and destiny of Am- 
erica, 16 the free spirit of the West, 17 the necessity of the Union, 18 
the need of personal cleanliness and of aesthetic surroundings, 19 
the opportunities for civic improvement, 20 the absurdities of 
fashion, 21 the mission of democracy, 22 and the blessing of good 
books. 23 

g. Reviews and Criticism 

The comprehensive duties of an editor, as understood by 
Whitman, brought him into touch not only with the best plays, 
operas, concerts, lectures, and sermons that the two cities 
afforded, but also with the publications of the New York press 

1 See I, pp. 144-146, 220-221. 

2 See I, pp. 126, 193-195, 199-202, 257; II, pp. 68-69, 83, 84, 90, 134. 

*See I, pp. 104-106. «See I, pp. 185-186, 236-238. i>See I, pp. 121-123. 

8 See I, pp. 104—106. 7 See I, pp. 152-154, 158. 

"See I, pp. 106-108, 160-162; 171-174; II, pp. 8-10. 

• See I, pp. 37-39, 123-125, 236-237. 10 See I, pp. 97-103, 108-110; II, pp. 15-16. 

"See I, pp. 149, 223; II, pp, 6, 11-12, 103-221. 

"See I, pp. 60-67, 83-86, 138-139, 154-156, 212-213, 223, 232-234; II, pp. 10-13. 

"See I, p. 137; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 19, 1846; also "The Gathering of the 
Forces," I, pp. 148-151, 157-158. 

"See I, pp. 65-66, 138-139, 216—217; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 17, 1846. 

"Seel, pp. 113-114, 164-166, 181-186, 248-249, 255-256. 

16 See I, pp. 153, 156, 158, 171— 174; and "The Gathering of the Forces," I, pp. 229- 
234, 235-239. 

"See I, pp. 151-152, 185. "See I, p. 156; II, pp. 30-31, 57. 

"See I, pp. 190, 208-209, 249, 254-255; II, pp. 90, 127; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 
11, 23, 24, April 15, June 30, 1846; "The Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 201-207. 

^See I, pp. 141-142, 169, 190, 239-241, 259-264. 

21 See I, pp. 162-163, 208-210, 245-246, 249. 

22See I, pp. 159-160, 160-162, 166-168. 

"See I, pp. 125-126, 126-137, 188-189; c f- n, pp. 22, 23, 26-41, 76. 


and the periodicals of the country. Probably his most en- 
joyable work was to attend the play or opera and to criticize 
the production in his paper. Certainly he is seldom more 
eloquent or enthusiastic than when so engaged. 1 His critical 
standards were his own, formulated in a long and regular at- 
tendance at the opera and theatre. 2 Mere technique never sat- 
isfied him; 3 the artist must touch his deeper feelings, and when 
he did Whitman was the most responsive man in the audience. 4 

If space permitted, a detailed study should be made of 
Whitman's book criticisms in his formative years. They cor- 
respond more nearly than anything else to the reports, criti- 
ques, and examination papers whereby we try to estimate the 
intellectual progress of college students. They furnish hints, at 
least, as to the influence of various authors on his growing mind, 
and are proof enough that his effort to educate himself was 
comprehensive, intelligent, and serious. I have brought to- 
gether (I, pp. 126-137) Whitman's critical opinions on some 
thirty-five American and European authors, and have listed 
the titles of a hundred other books reviewed or "noticed" 
in the Eagle. It is unnecessary here to summarize these 
opinions, but a few conclusions may be drawn from them. 
There can no longer be any question as to whether Whitman 
knew Emerson's writings before 1855. 5 As p°ets Longfellow 6 
and Bryant 7 apparently had more influence on him, the one 
because of his sentiment and the other because of his dignified 
poems on nature and freedom. Similarities to "Sartor Resartus" 
have been pointed out in the " Leaves of Grass," but now we 
know that Carlyle was making a gradual but strong impression 
on Whitman's mind as early as 1 846. 8 Perhaps Goethe's "Auto- 
biography" gave him his most definite hint for the plan of his 
own volume. 9 Martin Tupper has been mentioned by one biog- 
rapher as a possible "influence" on Whitman; that influence 
was, I think, a limited one, but now we know that at least Whit-' 
man had read Tupper with admiration. 10 Indeed he read all 
kinds of books, but seems to have preferred the profounder 
sort. To each, whether written on this or on the other side of 
the Atlantic, he applies the standard of modern democracy. 11 
One regrets that Whitman attempted so many things that his 

»See especially I, pp. 143-144, 255-259. 2 See I, p. 257. z Ibidem. 
«See I, pp. 143-144, 256-259. 6 See I, p. 132; cf. p. 243, note. 
•See I, pp. 133-134. 7 See I, pp. 128-129. ?See I, pp. 129-130. 
9 See I, pp. 132, 139-141. 10 See I, p. 136, -~ 
"See I, pp. 121-123, 133-134, 163-164, 


book reviews are for the most part hastily written or incomplete; 
for they reveal the same shrewd judgment and quick intuition 
that in later life rendered his discussion of literature so pleas- 
antly stimulating. 

8. Summary of Journalistic Prose 

It happens that all this journalistic work, though it was 
Whitman's method of earning his daily bread, was also his only 
apprenticeship in letters. Are there, then, in this early 
magazine and newspaper writing any hints of the unfolding of 
his own artistic spirit and of the plan of the "Leaves?" In a 
general way we can trace the development of that spirit in him 
as, first, he dreams of writing a great book for the good of man- 
kind, the nature of the book being as hazy as the dream in which 
it was born; second, as he grows temporarily but genuinely 
enthusiastic over his discovery of what he mistakenly believes 
to be a new field for the novel; third, as he strives to elevate the 
newspaper to a plane on which a great man might put forth 
his full greatness for the good of his country; and finally, as 
he stumbles upon the unpredictable poetic role for which he 
was foreordained. And what were the steps leading blindly but 
inevitably to that role? When he urged upon American con- 
cert singers the necessity of being natural, unaffected Ameri- 
cans instead of imitating the here exogenous graces of courtly 
Europeans, he was unconsciously announcing what was to be a 
fundamental differentium between his own art and that, 
say, of Spenser and Shakespeare. When he called the attention 
of American painters to the wealth of genre studies afforded 
by their own country, 1 he was in reality awakening the word- 
painter in himself, who was one day to write poems worthy to be 
likened to the canvases of Millet. When he demanded vision, 
originality, and reformatory fervour of the editor, he was shaping 
his composite ideal of that poet-prophet who was within a few 
months to hear the voice of the Future, bidding him lead his 
people to the promised land of a vital, if somewhat sentimental, 
democracy. Dreaming of the coming of an artist great enough 
to create a true, indigenous American drama, 2 he expressed a 
longing which, like that of Ernest in "The Great Stone Face," 
was to be satisfied in a doubly unexpected manner. It is worth 

»C/. I, pp. 185-186. 2 See I, pp. 152-154. 


noting that even in his dreams of what the American stage 
might be, he emphasized its educative function rather than its 
aesthetic: "The drama of this country can be the mouthpiece of 
freedom, refinement, liberal philosophy, beautiful love for all our 
brethren, polished manners and good taste." 1 And finally when, 
in a book review, he. shouted "Eureka" over the discovery, in 
Goethe's "Autobiography," of a man's life-story full and intimate 
and true enough to satisfy his exorbitant longings, 2 his own 
unborn volume stirred with excitement within him. . . . 
Yet the closest connection between Whitman's early prose and 
his characteristic verse is to be found in the manuscript note- 
books, to which I shall presently advert. 

On the whole, one is disposed to pronounce Whitman's 
connection with newspapers and magazines beneficial to the 
poet. It brought him into contact with hasty and mediocre 
writers, to be sure, and it forced upon him a habit of writing 
without revision that could but be detrimental to his prose style. 
Moreover, a distinctly literary manner was hardly in place in the 
newspaper columns of his day. But, on the other hand, it 
developed in him a deep sense of the responsibility of the writer; 
it brought to him the best books issuing from the press, books 
which he might not otherwise have had the opportunity or the 
incentive to read; it gave him the entree to the art of the 
metropolis; and it afforded him a vantage point from which 
he could learn to look at the growing young country as a whole. 
The breadth of view, the tolerance of opinion, the interest 
in the eternal present with its consequent sense of progress, 
and the quick judgment of values which make his "Leaves of 
Grass" so nearly what it attempted to be — a picture of the 
average man in the midst of the maelstrom America of the 
nineteenth century — could hardly have been obtained in any 
other way. Certainly the colleges of his time, whatever they 
might have done in "correcting" or in restraining his style, 
would never have developed in him that ability to derive an 
Antaean power from his contact with humanity which it was, 
after all, that made him a great writer. In this respect the 
American newspaper office may be said to have done for 
Whitman very much what it did for Mark Twain, if we make 
allowance for the difference between the humour and the romance 
of the one and the sentiment and idealism of the other. 

l See I, p. 152. a See I, pp. 139-141. 


9. Manuscript Note Books 

About 1847, as we have seen, Whitman began the composi- 
tion which was to grow, through seven or eight years, into the 
First Edition of the "Leaves of Grass." Now, that edition con- 
tains approximately one fourth as much prose as it does verse — 
oracular, incoherent, picturesque prose so closely akin to the 
verse it was designed to introduce to the reading public that 
much of it could later be incorporated in the poem "By Blue 
Ontario's Shore." This fact supplies a hint as to the origin of 
the whole book, a hint which is confirmed by a study of the 
manuscript note books printed in the second volume of the pres- 
ent work. 

The first of these begins with a sense of suppressed, half- 
articulate power, in the language of a novel ecstasy. Some 
mystical experience, some great if not sudden access of in- 
tellectual power, some enlargement and clarifying of vision, 
some selfless throb of cosmic sympathy, has come to Walt 
Whitman. At first he can only ejaculate his wonder, and pray 
for the advent of a perfect man who will be worthy to com- 
municate to the world this new vision of humanity. 1 Then, 
like the prophet Isaiah, whose great book he is wont to carry 
in his pocket to Coney Island, he suddenly realizes that a 
vision is itself a commission; and from this moment he dedicates 
himself to a life task as audacious as it seems divine. 2 At last 
he has the courage and feels the mystic authority to assume the 
role that he has, somewhat indefinitely, been calling upon others 
to assume. The burden of his message, as in his dream of 
seven years before, is the future good of man, but as yet he can 
only hint it in imperfect prose, the only language he has learned 
in the newspaper offices. He announces the tokens of the true 
American character — health, 3 liberty, 4 independence, 5 haughty 
pride, 6 self-reliance, 7 prudence, 8 tolerance, 9 equality; 10 he 
marvels at that miracle of the mystic's imagination by which 
the soul is enabled to dissolve and to comprehend the solid things 
of the earth; 11 he is drunk with the limitless dilation of the liber- 
ated spirit; 12 he divines the dual but harmonious mystery which 
others know only as mind and matter, soul and body, and thus 

»See II, p. 68. 2 See II, p. 69. »See II, pp. 64, 65. « Ibidem. 

5 See II, pp. 63, 64. «See II, pp. 63-64. 7 See II, p. 67. »See II, p. 63. 

•See p. 64. 10 See II, pp. 63, 64, 65. "See II, pp. 64-66. 12 See II, p. 66. ' 


he arrives at Emerson's conception of an evil which is merely 
privative; 1 he discovers that true nobility has no relation to 
wealth or rank, but is to be sought even among "drivers and 
boatmen or men that catch fish or work in the field"; 2 he feels 
his kinship with all flesh. 3 Stated in unemotional prose, as I 
have stated them, these ideas seem platitudinous indeed; but 
the genius of the mystic is that he can make a platitude throb 
with life, and even in Whitman's prose there is an indefinable 
promise of the inspiration which was in time to set the seal of 
genius upon the book here struggling to its birth. Presently he 
comes to realize that he must have a new language, capable 
of manifold suggestion, appropriate for multiform effects, 
plastic as his own personality. The poet alone can master 
such a language, 4 and so, relying for guidance upon the Spirit 
which has bidden him write, he sets about the stupendous task 
of creating a new sort of poetry for America. It is hardly sur- 
prising that the form of the new poetry should have borne a 
striking resemblance to Hebraic verse, particularly when one 
remembers how familiar Whitman was with the Scriptures. 5 
But it is important to observe that his book is, originally, not a 
song singing itself, but the utterance of mystical inspiration, 
often first expressed in prose and later rendered into long and 
rhythmical lines. First in his mind came the message or 
suggestion, then the "making it more rhythmical." This is 
shown by the fact that Whitman passes almost indifferently 
from prose to verse, or from verse to prose/ without noticeable 
change of mood. It is further shown by comparing these note- 
book specimens with the First Edition of the "Leaves of Grass" 
and noting the great increase of terseness and rhythm in the 
latter. There, as an artist, he has begun to think more of 
/wpression; whereas here, as a seer, he is chiefly engrossed 
in the difficult task of expression. 

It is reassuring to the lay mind to know that all the beauty 
and the invigorating freshness of the "Leaves of Grass" were thus 
fully earned by the sweat of the poet's brow, and that the 
divine fire did not descend upon the altar of a lazy man who had 
accumulated no goods for the sacrifice. Here we have the rare 
privilege of attending what its author would have called the 
accouchement of the greatest single volume America has yet 

1 Sce II, pp. 65, 68. 'See II, p. 69. »See II, pp. 66-69. * Se e H, p. 65. 
6 See I, p. 127, and also the list of quotations from the Bible given in the Subject 


produced. The reader is not often permitted to see a "bible of 
democracy," or a bible of any sort, in the making. 


Our study of Whitman's prose led us to its culmination in his 
free verse. But though Whitman wrote comparatively little 
verse previous to 1847, or before 1855 for that matter, his new 
departure in literary form resulted also from a gradual evolu- 
tion of his poetry. 1 That when these two lines of development 
met they should have produced a form of expression that broke 
down the distinction between prose and poetry as commonly 
understood, was perhaps inevitable. A rapid review of these 
youthful compositions in verse will make this evolution clear. 

"Our Future Lot" 2 reveals how seriously the nineteen- 
year-old poet was taking the great mysteries of human life 
and death. The dignity of the theme lends a kind of sad 
simplicity to the treatment, finally relieving it of the mor- 
bid subjectivity with which it opens. Whitman naturally be- 
gins his versifying with a simple ballad stanza (4, 4, 4, 3; 
abcb y ) despite its inappropriateness, for he had not yet mastered 
even the elementary rhyme scheme of the ballad. He al- 
lows such crude rhymes as fear-wear, torn-burn, mystery-to die, 
and majesty-eye. The caesura slides about to accommodate the 
thought, in prophecy, perhaps, that the substance of his verse 
will ever mean more to Whitman than its form. At this stage 
he takes full advantage of poetic license and conventional dic- 

"Young Grimes," 3 published the next year, is serious neither 
in theme nor in treatment; and yet it illustrates how difficult it 
was for Whitman to be entirely trivial or objective with a pen 
in his hand. He opens the poem in a spirit of genial satire not 
unsuited to the popular ballad, but before he concludes he has 
read a sermon on the rewards of virtue and has (apparently) 

1 At one time critics attempted to dispose of Whitman's claims as a poet by charging 
that he had invented a new form only because he could not compete with others in con- 
ventional measures. In reply more friendly critics have sometimes cited the few bits of 
conventional verse hitherto known to be Whitman's, to prove that he could manipulate 
rhyme and metre when he chose. The contention of the latter critics is considerably 
strengthened with the new poems here preserved, but their argument does not seem to me 
the strongest by which to defend the poetry of the "Leaves of Grass" — if, indeed, defense 
be necessary at this late day. The fair test of his poetic ability is to inquire, not whether 
he could write in rhyme, but whether he could make poetry of what he chose to write. 

*See I, p. 1. 8 See I, pp. 2-4. 


with gentle irony described himself! These stanzas appear 
in the Long Island Democrat amid a number of other mock- 
heroic ballads, from anonymous contributors, on the fortunes 
of Father Grimes and his posterity, as if Whitman had fallen 
a victim to a passing epidemic of doggerel. The stanza is that 
of the ancient ballad (4, 3, 4, 3; abcb), 1 employed somewhat 
loosely. In one verse the rhyme, being double, produces 
hypercatalectic lines. 2 The rhyming shows improvement, on 
the whole, for in a poem nearly twice as long as "Our 
Future Lot" the number of defective rhymes is scarcely greater: 
fourte en-pain, board-yard, son-town, men-pain, and prove-love. 
The author personifies abstract ideas, as Plenty, Benevolence, 
Happiness, and Content, and he makes use of a few poetic 
contractions; but diction and imagery are neither oppressively 
conventional nor noticeably original. A fact worthy of note, 
however, is that Whitman at this period contrasts life in the 
country with life in the city to the disadvantage of the latter; 
yet within two years he was to go to the city — to live in it and 
to become its poet. For once in his early verse, he here seeks, 
by means of unexpected variations, a humorous effect. 

"Fame's Vanity," 3 also written in 1839, reverts to the stanza 
form of "Our Future Lot," but it evinces a marked increase of 
imagination and a decided improvement in phrasing. The 
rhyming is still imperfect, allowing store-power and know-brow, 
while a few lines are wanting in regularity of metre and even in 
rhythm; but the emotional effect of the stanzas is more sus- 
tained than in the previous poems. Here the heart of the young 
man is debating whether his ambition be not a vain and selfish 
thing in the presence of man's inescapable mortality. The 
affirmative answer he reaches does not satisfy him for long, for 
three years later the poem is altered and republished. 4 Ab- 
stractions are again personified, such as Glory and Oblivion, and 
such poetic diction as "viewless air" is utilized. But the con- 
cluding stanza is more imaginative than anything he has yet 
written. It may have been suggested by the conclusion of 

In the next preserved poem, "My Departure," 5 Whitman 

1 With this stanza Whitman had early become familiar in Scott's "Border Minstrelsy." 

•The second and fourth lines of the second stanza. 

•See I, pp. 4-5. 

'Under the caption "Ambition"; see I, pp. 19-20. 

5 See I, pp. 5-6. 


resumes his meditations on death. Here, however, death ap- 
pears as a dream rather than a passionate desire, as in "The 
Love That Is Hereafter." 1 The influence of nature has made the 
thought of death pleasant, whereas in the first of his poems 
Whitman had invoked the consolations of religion to make the 
thought endurable. The stanza form is the tetrameter qua- 
train, rhyming abcb. The rhymes are faulty, as cloud-blood, 
come-bloom, have-wave, overhead-shade, and sun-alone; and the 
metre is at times irregular if not actually pedestrian. On the 
other hand, due to the influence of nature, which will in the end 
prove Whitman's poetic salvation, there is an increased unity 
of tone and a more concrete and objective treatment. In 
1843 Whitman published a redaction of the poem, improving 
it enough to earn the qualified praise of the editor of the Brother 
Jonathan, in which it appeared. 2 That the young poet was inex- 
perienced rather than careless in his early poetizing is indicated 
not only by his frequent revisions but also by the increasing skill 
with which he handles simple measures and by the relative 
success of his attempts to employ more and more complicated 
forms. In the redaction of "My Departure," the improve- 
ment is sometimes due to alterations in diction or phrasing, 
sometimes to the elimination of redundancy, but especially 
to the substitution of the third person for the first. There 
is, however, no improvement in the rhyming. 

"The Inca's Daughter," 3 which follows, is a little ballad of 
eight regular stanzas. It conforms to the early-ballad type 
much more closely than anything Whitman has yet written, 
not only in the management of the stanza, but also in the selec- 
tion of a theme — the self-destruction of a proud captive maiden 
— and in the impersonality of treatment. I have been unable 
to discover where Whitman got the idea for this poem — not, 
of course, from the "Border Minstrelsy," though Scott's collec- 
tion probably gave him the method. 

A fortnight later Whitman published "The Love That Is 
Hereafter," 1 in quintets of four iambic tetrameters closed by an 
Iambic trimeter, the stanza rhyming aabbc. Either he or the 
compositor forgot to count the verses in the third stanza, which 
is only a quatrain, but the remaining eight stanzas are regular. 
The new stanza form, being more difficult, is not always em- 
ployed without uncouthness, and the rhymes include man- 
vain, rest-least, care-bier, then-pain, and wove-above. However, 

» See I, pp. 9-10. »SeeI, p. 7. » See I, pp. 8-9. 


the poem is carefully constructed so as to accentuate the effect 
of the prayer uttered in the final stanzas. The poet contrasts 
the peace and harmony of nature with the vexatious and futile 
strife, the unsatisfied hope, of mankind; and then, despairing 
of finding real affection on earth, he prays that this boon may at 
least be granted in heaven. 

After two months he again sang of death as a release from a 
troubled life. The conclusion to "We All Shall Rest at Last" 1 
almost certainly was written with "Thanatopsis" in mind. 2 
The stanza, the same as that in "Our Future Lot" and "Fame's 
Vanity," is here handled well enough to demand no revision at 
Whitman's hands when he republished a poem about a year 
later. The rhyme is almost faultless. 

Shortly after the publication of the last-mentioned poem, 
appeared a second little ballad dealing with a tragic story, 
"The Spanish Lady." 3 Its stanza may be described as a ballad 
stanza the first line of which is catalectic and feminine and in 
which anapaests are freely but ineffectively substituted for the 
regular iambs. In one instance 4 an iambic tetrameter replaces 
the regular trimeter composed of one anapaest and two iambs. 
The poem is far from successful. Whitman never possessed 
skill in telling a story in verse. Not only is the phrasing 
prosaic, but the narrative is without motivation, suspense, or 

In "The End of AH," 8 published in September, 1840, Whitman 
turns to a favourite theme of the period, the vanity of human 
ambitions when compared to the achievements of Creation. 
But here he attempts a less subjective treatment — a more 
didactic method, in fact — and a new verse form. The stanza 
is a sestet composed of five iambic tetrameters and one iambic 
trimeter, rhyming abcbdb. There are two imperfect rhymes 
{destiny-eye and brow-slow), but there are no glaring irregu- 
larities in the metre. When the poem was republished as 

»See I, pp. io-ii. 

s For Whitman's indebtedness to Bryant see also I, p. 1 1 5, note. Attention has been 
called to the similarity between a section of " My Departure," and "Thanatopsis." Per- 
haps a more striking similarity exists between "The End of All" (I, pp. 13-15) and Bry- 
ant's "The Flood of Years," published long afterward. Whitman, like Bryant, fre- 
quently poetized about man in the mass, but he learned to do so with a warmth of affec- 
tion unknown to the older poet's eighteenth-century verse. Cf. "With Walt Whit- 
man in Camden," III, p. 515. 

•See I, pp. 12-13. 

*The second line in the last stanza. 

■See I, pp. 13-15. 


"The Winding-Up " l in the same paper in 1841, a few changes 
were made in the diction, and one in the arrangement of the 
stanzas, while one stanza was completely rewritten, each 
alteration being an improvement. 

The tendency to experiment with more intricate verse forms 
was carried still further in the following month, when Whitman 
published "The Columbian's Song" 2 in four stanzas irregular in 
length, rhyme scheme, and construction. Since only two 
stanzas have the same number of lines, it is improbable that 
Whitman was following a model. Whether the "song" was 
ever sung, as was the author's Fourth of July "Ode," 3 1 do not 
know; but if sung it could hardly have aroused much patriotic 
emotion. Nevertheless, it has its place as an experiment in 
versification and among the "glory of America" poems that had 
been common enough since the days of Philip Freneau. The 
national pride which inspires this prophetic outburst was to 
become even more prominent as an element of Whitman's 
maturer singing than was the celebration of death. 

The next poem to be published, though it had been written a 
year or so earlier, was an allegory on "The Punishment of 
Pride," 4 which appeared in December, 1841. The poet still 
dreams of the realm of spirits, but now much more poetically. 
This imaginative composition belongs in a class with such bits of 
poetic prose as "The Angel of Tears" 5 and "Eris," 6 which 
seem to show the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. This allegory 
teaches how charity and pity grow from actual knowledge of 
human weakness and sorrow, and indicates the abandonment 
of the youthful pharisaism of some of the earlier pieces. The 
stanza used is a new one for Whitman — seven lines, all iambic 
tetrameters except the third and fifth (which are usually iambic 
trimeters), rhyming aabcbdd. The diction, phrasing, and 
versifying are now more mature and modulated, but the un- 
accustomed rhyme scheme, taken with the length of the poem, 
results in a large number of poor endings: throne-one *, come- 
doom, worn-scorn, messenger-fair, heard-scared, high-majesty, 
shone-one, and charity-eye. The poet's vocabulary is still very 
conventional and limited, and it may have been that the 
absence of more than a single poem in which he was rhyme- 
perfect indicted a conscious or unconscious reason for his final 
creation of a verse form in which rhyme was unnecessary. That 

iSee I, p. 13, note, 'See I, pp. 15-16. sSee I, pp. 22-23. 
«See I, pp. 17-19. B See I, pp. 83-86. «See I, pp. 86-89. 


in itself, however, was manifestly not Whitman's only, or prin- 
cipal, reason for inventing a new prosody, for he could write 
correct, smooth blank verse when he chose, as will appear in 
the next poem that he published. 

This was "Ambition," 1 the redaction of "Fame's Vanity" 
previously mentioned. The alterations in form and content are 
noteworthy. The original stanzas are enveloped between a 
prologue and an epilogue of blank verse. The prologue de- 
scribes a youth tormented with the desire for fame, in whom, 
without much difficulty, the reader recognizes the author 
himself. To him a mystical voice speaks in the language of 
the original poem, declaring human ambition to be vanity of 
vanities. This part of the poem displays marked improve- 
ment over the original draft. In the epilogue we are informed 
that the youth, though silenced by the words of the unseen 
visitor, does not take his rebuke very meekly. So far as we 
know, his poetic attempts were, however, limited to two publi- 
cations in the next five years. But in 1847 or soon afterwards 
he received a very different visit from the Muse. 

One of the remaining poems of the conventional sort is "The 
Play-Ground." 2 This mawkishly sentimental verse gets no- 
where, either as a description or as a bit of dreamy moralizing. 
The form is the simplest that Whitman knew and the diction is 
particularly conventional. 

The last poem written before the beginning of Whitman's ex- 
periments in free verse was an ode composed to be sung to the 
tune of the national hymn on the Fourth of July, 1846. 3 The 
stanza was perhaps the most exacting that he had attempted, 
and yet in it his success is noteworthy for an occasional 
poem. The rhyming is, for once, without fault, and the patri- 
otic sentiment is not only disencumbered of the weakening 
braggadocio of "The Columbian's Song," but it is particularly 
well adapted to the time and place. 

Then came the irregular, undecided attempts in what has 
come to be called vers libre^ preserved in the manuscript note- 
books to which reference has already been made in the preced- 
ing section of this essay. The slow, eventful growth of the 
First Edition is nowhere more clearly indicated than in the fact 
that, though these note books contain many of the very lines 
to be employed in that edition, the great experiment was not 
committed to type until after many years of careful revision. 

»See I, pp. 19-20. 2 See I, p. 21. 3 See I, pp. 22—23. 


Remembering that these note-book essays were in Whitman's 
mind during these years, we shall continue to trace the rest of 
the poems known to have been written before 1855. 

At the very beginning of 1848 he wrote, it must have been im- 
promptu, a little poem 1 comparing the weather changes of New 
Year's day and the shifting fortunes of human life. It would 
be unjustifiable, perhaps, to seek to discover a subconscious 
meaning in his prayer to be guarded from "caprices and all 
foolish ways" recorded only a few weeks before he was to pro- 
voke the ire of his employer and so to lose his "comfortable berth" 
in the Eagle office, but the coincidence is at least interesting. 
In form the poem is neither fish, flesh, nor fowl; for though it 
opens, apparently, with the intention of being blank verse, the 
second line is iambic tetrameter, others are hexameters, and 
the last three rhyme together! Possibly this is what the first 
drafts of all Whitman's early poems looked like, for we know his 
habit of carefully revising his verse before publication; but, in 
part, at least, it must have been due to his then novel ideas of 
rhythm. 2 Of course, one does not expect in a poem written 
impromptu in an album the sort of inspiration that gives the 
note-books their freshness and dynamic power. Accordingly, 
knowing that Whitman was neither an improvisator nor a 
master of society verse, one is not surprised to find in the poem 
verses which regard neither rhythm nor metre, but are simply 

That, although Whitman did not at once determine to aban- 
don rhyme and metre, he was nevertheless hampered in his 
composition of conventional verse by a divided mind, is shown, 
I think, by the unusual roughness in the metre of "The Missis- 
sippi at Midnight" 3 as originally printed in the New Orleans 
Crescent early in March, 1848. 4 This poem betrays a con- 
sciousness, not only of mysterious emotional depths within 
himself, but also of a new mission in life. As has been stated, 
New Orleans inspired Whitman with no poetry at the time of 
his first visit, though it gave him hints for numerous passages 
in his later verse. The caresser of life, the saunterer in bar- 

»SeeI, pp. 23-24- 

»If the poetic parts of the first note-book were written in 1848 or 1849 (see II, p. 6^ y 
note) then of course this poem belongs before them in strict chronology. 

»Not included in this collection. 

4 Another conventional poem published after the date of the note-book specimens is the 
Dough-Face Song." 


rooms and along the levees, the student of humanity is for the 
time engrossed in the luscious enjoyment of what is to him a 
new and romantic world, quite foreign to the one in which had 
been born the mystic and the prophet bent on creating a new 
national poetry. But, as has been shown in the foregoing essay, 
Whitman went south more than once, and it is possible that he 
was on his way thither, in the fall of 1849, 1 when he wrote his 
next poem, "Isle of La Belle Riviere," 2 and gave it to his host 
on Blennerhasset Island. It is interesting to note that this 
poem, written in what is now called imagist verse, was not 
a development of, but a step toward, the rhythms of the "Leaves 
of Grass." It has rhythm, but it is bare in diction and smacks 
much more of wit than of emotion. The title, it will be ob- 
served, makes use of the French which had caught Whitman's 
fancy while in New Orleans. And the somewhat peculiar 
images employed, though obviously only figures of speech, 
may have had some psychological connection with the poet's 
errand southward if we are entitled to surmise that errand to 
have had anything to do with his paternity of children by a 
married woman. 3 

Three poems approximating much more closely than did this 
imagist verse the style of 1855 were published in the summer of 
1850. One of these, "The House of Friends," 4 contains so 
much about the South, 5 said almost as a Southerner might have 
said it, as to strengthen the belief that there had been a south- 
ern journey in the spring or fall preceding. It is plain that 
what differentiates these poems — "Blood-Money," 6 "The 
House of Friends," and " Resurgemus " 7 — from the imagist verse 
just mentioned is the charge of passionate indignation which 
gives them a freer swing of rhythm, as of eloquence born of deep 
and sudden feeling. Just what is wanting to make true " Leaves 
of Grass" verse of these early contributions to Horace Greeley's 
New York Tribune can be discovered by comparing the original 
text of "Resurgemus" with the version of that poem in the 
1855 edition of the "Leaves," which is reproduced in the present 
volumes. 8 A few "stock poetical touches" remain to be elimi- 
nated, but the chief alteration to be made is not in the diction 
or phrasing, but in the line length. The style in the later ver- 

»See infra, p. li, note 5. *Sec I, p. 24, note; also, p. 216, note. 

^ee infra, p. Iviii, note 15. 4 See I, pp. 25-27. *See p. 25, note 2. 

•See "Complete Prose," p. 372. 7 See I, pp. 27-30. 8 Ibidem. 


sion is rendered more coherent, and there is an increased par- 
allelism within the line and between the lines. The whole is 
given a more impressive dignity by doubling the length of 
most of the lines, which yet can be accommodated on a large 
octavo page, the distinction between the original verses being 
preserved by means of a series of points in the middle of each 
line. In tone the later version is equally impassioned, but 
more restrained, less defiant. Most important of all, as giving 
us the working principle which Whitman next evolved, the line 
is now based on an idea, stated with or without explication, 
and a free rhythm, rather than upon any predetermined 
standard of measurement. 

To recapitulate: Whitman began versifying with the simplest 
of forms, the ballad measure, employing it with certain varia- 
tions and with increasing skill; then he made use of more diffi- 
cult stanza forms, but limiting himself to trimeter and tetra- 
meter iambic lines; next he wrote a little blank verse, though he 
did not abandon rhyme at once, but rather increased his mastery 
of it; then he made private experiments with some of the very 
material he was to work over, through several years, for the 
1855 edition of the "Leaves of Grass," experiments dictated by 
some new and powerful mystical experience; after that the 
verse he gave to the world was either hybrid or otherwise irreg- 
ular; then came hard and objective imagist verse, as though in 
working out a new vehicle of expressson the mind had come 
unduly to dominate his usual emotion; next, fired by cowardice 
and injustice on the part of the leaders of the nation, he pub- 
lished some of his new verse, charged with passion, but it was 
passion timed for the moment rather than for eternity, and 
hence was ejaculatory and unrhythmical; and, finally, this was 
disciplined, poise and sweeping rhythm were added, and a 
standard of line length was adopted which would fit the bold 
but delicate burden of his song. Thenceforth there was a new 
poetry in America. 









This breast which now alternate burns 
With flashing hope, and gloomy fear, 

Where beats a heart that knows the hue 
Which aching bosoms wear; 

This curious frame of human mold, 
Where craving wants unceasing play — 

The troubled heart and wondrous form 
Must both alike decay. 

The cold wet earth will close around 
Dull senseless limbs, and ashy face, 

But where, O Nature! where will be 
My mind's abiding place? 

Will it ev'n live? For though its light 
Must shine till from the body torn; 

Then, when the oil of life is spent, 
Still shall the taper burn ? 

O, powerless is this struggling brain 
To pierce the mighty mystery; 

In dark, uncertain awe it waits, 
The common doom — to die ! 

1 From the Long Island Democrat (Jamaica, L. I.), October 31, 1838, into which it had 
been copied, in whole or in part, "from the Long Islander." This latter paper was the 
first that Whitman edited. It was a weekly issued at the little town of Huntington 
near Whitman's birthplace, beginning in June, 1838. On this sheet Whitman did 
practically all the work, being editor, reporter, printer, publisher, and news-carrier all 
in one. This fact, taken with the obvious Whitman manner of treatment both as to 
theme and as to style, seems to establish his authorship, although the poem was not 
signed in the Democrat. 


Mortal ! and can thy swelling soul 
Live with the thought that all its life 

Is centered in this earthy cage 
Of care, and tears, and strife ? 

Not so; that sorrowing heart of thine 
Ere long will find a house of rest; 

Thy form, re-purified, shall rise, 
In robes of beauty drest. 

The flickering taper's glow shall change 
To bright and starlike majesty, 

Radiant with pure and piercing light 
From the Eternal's eye! 


When old Grimes died, he left a son — 
The graft of worthy stock; 

In deed and word he shows himself 
A chip of the old block. 

In youth, 'tis said, he liked not school — 

Of tasks he was no lover; 
He wrote sums in a ciphering book, 

Which had a pasteboard cover. 

Young Grimes ne'er went to see the girls 

Before he was fourteen; 
Nor smoked, nor swore, for that he knew 

Gave Mrs. Grimes much pain. 

He never was extravagant 
In pleasure, dress, or board; 

His Sunday suit was of blue cloth, 
At six and eight a yard. 

From the Long Island Democrat ', January 1, 1839. 


But still there is, to tell the truth, 

No stinginess in him; 
And in July he wears an old 

Straw hat with a broad brim. 

No devotee in fashion's train 

Is good old Grimes's son; 
He sports no cane — no whiskers wears, 

Nor lounges o'er the town. 1 

He does not spend more than he earns 

In dissipation's round; 
But shuns with care those dangerous rooms 

Where vice and sin abound. 

It now is eight and twenty years 

Since young Grimes saw the light; 
And no house in the land can show 

A fairer, prouder sight. 

For there his wife, prudent and chaste, 

His mother's age made sweet, 
His children trained in virtue's path, 

The gazer's eye will meet. 

Upon a hill, just off the road 

That winds the village side, 
His farm house stands, within whose door 

Ne'er entered Hate or Pride. 

But Plenty and Benevolence 

And Happiness are there — 
And underneath that lowly roof 

Content smiles calm and fair. 

J The subjectivity which permeates nearly all of Whitman's early verse here appears, 
perhaps, as a description of himself. (Cf. "Habitants of Hotels," post, I, pp. 194-195 
which, as Mr. W. K. Dart suggests, may belong in the same category.) But such de- 
tails as are given in this stanza contradict the evidence of his only extant photograph 
of the period (see frontispiece, Vol. II) which shows both cane and beard, while his 
avowed fondness for loafing was to be recorded, within the year, by the poet himself. 
(See/»oj/,I,pp. 44-46.) 


Reader, go view the cheerful scene — 

By it how poor must prove 
The pomp, and tinsel, and parade, 

Which pleasure's followers love. 

Leave the wide city's noisy din — 

The busy haunts of men — 
And here enjoy a tranquil life, 

Unvexed by guilt or pain. 


O, many a panting, noble heart 

Cherishes in its deep recess 
The hope to win renown o'er earth 

From Glory's prized caress. 

And some will reach that envied goal, 

And have their fame known far and wide; 

And some will sink unnoted down 
In dark Oblivion's tide. 

But I, who many a pleasant scheme 
Do sometimes cull from Fancy's store, 

With dreams, such as the youthful dream, 
Of grandeur, love, and power — 

Shall I build up a lofty name, 
And seek to have the nations know 

What conscious might dwells in the brain 
That throbs aneath this brow? 

And have thick countless ranks of men 

Fix upon me their reverent gaze, 
And listen to the deafening shouts, 

To me that thousands raise? 

iFrom the Long Island Democrat, October 23, 1839. 

The poem was later incorporated in "Ambition" (see post, I, pp. 19-20) with a num- 
ber of significant alterations. 


Thou foolish soul ! the very place 
That pride has made for folly's rest; 

What thoughts with vanity all rife, 
Fill up this heaving breast! 

Fame, O what happiness is lost 
In hot pursuit of thy false glare! 

Thou, whose drunk votaries die to gain 
A puff of viewless air. 

So, never let me more repine, 
Though I live on obscure, unknown, 

Though after death unsought may be 
My markless resting stone. 1 

For mighty one and lowly wretch, 
Dull, idiot mind, or teeming sense, 

Must sleep on the same earthy couch, 
A hundred seasons hence. 


Not in a gorgeous hall of pride, 

Mid tears of grief and friendship's sigh, 

Would I, when the last hour has come, 
Shake off this crumbling flesh and die. 

»This early passage has a peculiar interest in view of the fact that the poet saved 
money for several years previous to his death to build the massive granite tomb bearing 
the simple legend "Walt Whitman" in which, with other members of his family, his 
body now rests. 

Cf. also post, I, pp. 230-231; II, pp. 125, 15a. 

2 From the Long Island Democrat, November 27, 1839. 

The poem was reprinted in the Brother Jonathan (New York), Vol. IV, No. 10, 
March 11, 1843. As the later version shows many alterations and improvements, it is 
given on p. 7, post. The editor of the Brother Jonathan introduced the poem with the 
remark, "The following wants but a half-hour's polish to make of it an effusion of very 
uncommon beauty. — Ed." 

In this latter version the poem was reprinted again, after Whitman's death, in the 
Conservator •, Vol. XII, p. 189, January, 1905. 


My bed I would not care to have 

With rich and costly stuffs hung round; 

Nor watched with an officious zeal, 
To keep away each jarring sound. 

Amid the thunder crash of war, 

Where hovers Death's ensanguined cloud, 

And bright swords flash, and banners fly, 
Above the sickening sight of blood: 

Not there — not there, would I lay down 
To sleep with all the firm and brave; 

For death in such a scene of strife, 
Is not the death that I do crave. 

But when the time for my last look 
Upon this glorious earth should come, 

I'd wish the season warm and mild, 
The sun to shine, and flowers bloom. 

Just ere the closing of the day, 

My dying couch I then would have 
Borne out in the refreshing air, 

Where sweet shrubs grow and proud trees wave. 

The still repose would calm my mind. 

And lofty branches overhead, 
Would throw around this grassy bank, 

A cooling and a lovely shade. 

At distance through the opening trees, 

A bay by misty vapours curled, 
I'd gaze upon, and think the haven 

For which to leave this fleeting world. 

To the wide winds I'd yield my soul, 
And die there in that pleasant place, 

Looking on water, sun, and hill, 
As on their Maker's very face. 

I'd want no human being near; 

But at the setting of the sun, 
I'd bid adieu to earth, and step 

Down to the Unknown World — alone. 



Not in a gorgeous hall of pride 

Where tears fall thick, and loved ones sigh, 
Wisht he, when the dark hour approached 

To drop his veil of flesh, and die. 

Amid the thundercrash of strife, 

Where hovers War's ensanguined cloud, 

And bright swords flash and banners fly- 
Above the wounds, and groans, and blood. 

Not there — not there! Death's look he'd cast 

Around a furious tiger's den, 
Rather than in the monstrous sight 

Of the red butcheries of men. 

Days speed: the time for that last look 

Upon this glorious earth has come: 
The Power he serves so well vouchsafes 

The sun to shine, the flowers to bloom. 

Just ere the closing of the day, 

His fainting limbs he needs have 
Borne out into the fresh free air, 

Where sweet shrubs grow, and proud trees wave. 

At distance, o'er the pleasant fields, 

A bay of misty vapors curled, 
He gazes on, and thinks the haven 

For which to leave a grosser world. 

He sorrows not, but smiles content, 

Dying there in that fragrant place, 
Gazing on blossom, field and bay, 

As on their Maker's very face. 

The cloud-arch bending overhead 

There, at the setting of the sun 
He bids adieu to earth, and steps 

Down to the World Unknown, 



Before the dark-brow'd sons of Spain, 
A captive Indian maiden stood; 

Imprison'd where the moon before 
Her race as princes trod. 

The rack had riven her frame that day — 
But not a sigh or murmur broke 

Forth from her breast; calmly she stood, 
And sternly thus she spoke: — 

The glory of Peru is gone; 

Her proudest warriors in the fight — 
Her armies, and her Inca's power 

Bend to the Spaniard's might. 

"And I — a Daughter of the Sun — 
Shall I ingloriously still live? 
Shall a Peruvian monarch's child 
Become the white lord's slave? 

No: I'd not meet my father's frown 
In the free spirit's place of rest, 

Nor seem a stranger midst the bands 
Whom Manitou has blest." 

Her snake-like eye, her cheek of fire, 
Glowed with intenser, deeper hue; 

She smiled in scorn, and from her robe 
A poisoned arrow drew. 

"Now, paleface see! The Indian girl 
Can teach thee how to bravely die: 
Hail! spirits of my kindred slain, 
A sister ghost is nigh!" 

1 »From the Long Island Democrat, May 5, 1840. 


Her hand was clenched and lifted high — 
Each breath, and pulse, and limb was still'd; 

An instant more the arrow fell: 
Thus died the Inca's child. 


O, beauteous is the earth! and fair 
The splendors of Creation are: 
Nature's green robe, the shining sky, 
The winds that through the tree-tops sigh, 
All speak a bounteous God. 

The noble trees, the sweet young flowers, 
The birds that sing in forest bowers, 
The rivers grand that murmuring roll, 
And all which joys or calms the soul 

Are made by gracious might. 

The flocks and droves happy and free, 
The dwellers of the boundless sea, 
Each living thing on air or land, 

Is formed for joy and peace. 

But man — weak, proud, and erring man, 
Of truth ashamed, of folly vain — 
Seems singled out to know no rest 
And of all things that move, feels least 
The sweets of happiness. 

Yet he it is whose little life 
Is past in useless, vexing strife. 
And all the glorious earth to him 
Is rendered dull, and poor, and dim, 
From hope unsatisfied. 

He faints with grief— he toils through care — 
And from the cradle to the bier 
He wearily plods on — till Death 
Cuts short his transient, panting breath, 
And sends him to his sleep. 

» From the Long Island Democrat, May 1 9, 1 840. 


O, mighty powers of Destiny! 
When from this coil of flesh I'm free — 
When through my second life I rove, 
Let me but find one heart to love, 
As I would wish to love: 

Let me but meet a single breast, 
Where this tired soul its hope may rest, 
In never-dying faith: ah, then, 
That would be bliss all free from pain, 
And sickness of the heart. 

For vainly through this world below 
We seek affection. Nought but wo 
Is with our earthly journey wove; 
And so the heart must look above, 
Or die in dull despair. 


On earth are many sights of woe, 

And many sounds of agony, 
And many a sorrow- withered cheek, 

And many a pain-dulled eye. 

The wretched weep, the poor complain, 
And luckless love pines on unknown, 

And faintly from the midnight couch 
Sounds out the sick child's moan. 

Each has his care: old age fears death; 

The young man's ills are pride, desire, 
And heart-sickness, and in his breast 

The heat of passion's fire. 

» From the Long Island Democrat > July 1 4, 1 840. This poem was republished under the 
title " Each Has His Grief" and over the initials " W. W." in the New World (New York), 
Vol. Ill, p. 1, November 20, 1841. The only alterations are in the punctuation and 
capitalization, which are uniformly improved, in the substitution of grief for care in 
the first line of the fourth stanza, and in the insertion, after the third stanza, of the 
following lines: 

And he who runs the race of fame, 
Oft feels within a feverish dread, 
Lest others snatch the laurel crown 
He bears upon his head. 


All, all know grief; and at the close, 

All lie earth's spreading arms within, 
The pure, the black-souled, proud and low, 

Virtue, despair, and sin. 

O, foolish, then, with pain to shrink 
From the sure doom we each must meet. 

Is earth so fair or heaven so dark? 
Or life so passing sweet? 

No: dread ye not the fearful hour; 

The coffin, and the pall's dark gloom; 
For there's a calm to throbbing hearts, 

And rest, down in the tomb. 

Then our long journey will be o'er, 

And throwing off this load of woes, 
The pallid brow, the feebled limbs, 

Will sink in soft repose. 

Not only this; for wise men say 

That when we leave our land of care, 
We float to a mysterious shore, 

Peaceful, and pure, and fair. 

So, welcome, death; whene'er the time 
That the dread summons must be met, 

I'll yield without one pang of awe, 
Or sigh, or vain regret; 

But like unto a wearied child, 

That over field and wood all day 
Has ranged and struggled, and at last, 

Worn out with toil and play — 

Goes up at evening to his home, 

And throws him, sleepy, tired, and sore, 

Upon his bed, and rests him there, 
His pain and trouble o'er. 



On a low couch reclining, 

When slowly waned the day, 
Wrapt in gentle slumber, 

A Spanish maiden lay. 

O beauteous was that lady; 

And the splendor of the place 
Matched well her form so graceful, 

And her sweet, angelic face. 

But what doth she lonely, 

Who ought in courts to reign? 
For the form that there lies sleeping 

Owns the proudest name in Spain. 

Tis the lovely Lady Inez, 

De Castro's daughter fair, 
Who in the castle chamber, 

Slumbers so sweetly there. 

O, better had she laid her 

Mid the couches of the dead; 
O, better had she slumbered 

Where the poisonous snake lay hid. 

For worse than deadly serpent, 

Or mouldering skeleton, 
Are the fierce bloody hands of men, 

By hate and fear urged on. 

O Lady Inez, pleasant 

Be the thoughts that now have birth 
In thy visions; they are last of all 

That thou shalt dream on earth. 

*From the Long Island Democrat, August 4, 1840. 

This legend-incrusted story of fourteenth-century Spain was the inspiration for much 
drama, fiction, and poetry in Spanish, French, Italian, and English. The narrative, 
of which Whitman makes use of only the climax, can be read in concise form in Mrs. 
Alphra Behn's "Agnes de Castro," pp. 209-256, of Vol. 5 of the Summers edition of her 
works, London and Stratford, 191 5. 


Now noiseless on its hinges 

Opens the chamber door, 
And one whose trade is blood and crime 

Steals slow across the floor. 

High gleams the assassin's dagger; 

And by the road that it has riven, 
The soul of that fair lady 

Has passed from earth to heaven. 


Behold around us pomp and pride; 

The rich, the lofty, and the gay, 
Glitter before our dazzled eyes, 

Live out their brief but brilliant day; 
Then, when the hour for fame is o'er, 
Unheeded pass away. 

»From the Long Island Democrat, September 22, 1840. 

This poem was worked over and republished under the rather inelegant title "The 
Winding-Up" by "W. Whitman" in the same paper, June 22, 1841. In the later 
version stanzas three and four are reversed, while for the sixth stanza of the earlier form 
the later poem substitutes the following: 

Children of folly, here behold 

How soon the fame of man is gone: 
Time levels all. Trophies and names 

Inscription that the proud have drawn 
Surpassing strength — pillars and thrones 

Sink as the waves roll on. 

The redaction has also the following minor changes: 
LI. 3, 21, 39 — dashes substituted for commas. 
L 19 — hyphen omitted. 
L. 25 — comma omitted. 
L. 26 — colon substituted for comma. 
L. 38 — semicolon substituted for interrogation point. 
L. 39 — High though you stand — tho on your breast. 
L. 40 — Pride substituted for rank. 
L. 37 — Nor think substituted for Think not. 
LI. 44, 46 — dashes substituted for commas. 
L. 45 — world substituted for worlds. 
L. 47 — this strife substituted for the silly strife. 
L. 48 — Fame substituted (or fame. 


The warrior builds a mighty name, 

The object of his hopes and fears, 
That future times may see it where 

Her tower aspiring glory rears. 
Desist, O fool ! Think what thou'lt 1 be 
In a few fleeting years. 

The statesman's sleepless plodding brain 

Schemes out a nation's destiny; 
His is the voice that awes the crowd, 

And his the bold, commanding eye: 2 
But transient is his high renown; 

He, like the rest, must die. 

Beside his ponderous, age-worn book, 

A student shades his weary brow; 
He walks philosophy's dark path, 

A journey difficult and slow: 
But vain is all that teeming mind, 

He, too, to earth must go. 

And beauty, sweet, and all the fair 
That sail on fortune's sunniest wave, 

The poor, with him of countless gold, 
Owner of all that mortals crave, 

Alike are fated soon to lie 

Down in the silent grave. 

Why, then, O, insects of an hour! 3 

Why, then, with struggling toil, contend 

For honors you so soon must yield, 

When Death shall his stern summons send? 

For honor, glory, fortune, wit, 

This is, to all, the end. 

x The original has thouVt. 

1 Possibly this was suggested by the fact that Webster was to deliver an address at 
Jamaica two days after the appearance of the poem. 

*Cf.posty I, p. 47. 


Think not, when you attain your wish, 

Content will banish grief and care! 
High though you stand, though round you thrown 

The robes that rank and splendor wear, 
A secret poison in the heart 

Will stick and rankle there. 

In night go view the solemn stars, 1 

Ever in majesty the same; 
Creation's worlds: how poor must seem 

The mightiest honors earth can name; 
And, most of all, this silly strife 

After the bubble, fame! 


What a fair and happy place 

Is the one where Freedom lives, 
And the knowledge that our arm is strong, 

A haughty bearing gives! 
For each sun that gilds the east, 
When at dawn it first doth rise, 
Sets at night, 
Red and bright, 
On a people where the prize 
Which millions in the battle fight 
Have sought with hope forlorn, 
Grows brighter every hour, 
In strength, and grace, and power. 
And the sun this land doth leave 
Mightier at filmy eve, 
Than when it first arose, in the morn. 

Beat the sounding note of joy! 

Let it echo o'er the hills, 
Till shore and forest hear the pride, 

That a bondless bosom fills. 

1 Cf. post, I, p. 186. 

1 From the Long Island Democrat \ October 27, 1 840. 


And on the plain where patriot sires 

Rest underneath the sod, 
Where the stern resolve for liberty 
Was writ in gushing blood, 
Freemen go, 
With upright brow, 
And render thanks to God. 

O, my soul is drunk with joy, 

And my inmost heart is glad, 
To think my country's star will not 

Through endless ages fade, 
That on its upward glorious course 

Our red-eyed eagle leaps, 
While with the ever moving winds, 

Our dawn-striped banner sweeps: 
That here at length is found 

A wide extending shore, 
Where Freedom's starry gleam, 
Shines with unvarying beam; 

Not as it did of yore, 
With flickering flash, when Cesar fell, 
Or haughty Gesler heard his knell, 

Or Stuart rolled in gore. 

Nor let our foes presume 

That this heart-prized union band, 
Will e'er be severed by the stroke 

Of a fraternal hand. 
Though parties sometimes rage, 

And Faction rears its form, 
Its jealous eye, its scheming brain, 

To revel in the storm : 
Yet should a danger threaten, 

Or enemy draw nigh, 
Then scattered to the winds of heaven, 

All civil strife would fly; 
And north and south, and east and west, 

Would rally at the cry — 
"Brethren, arise! to battle come, 
For Truth, for Freedom, and for Home, 

And for our Fathers' Memory!" 



Once on his star-gemmed, dazzling throne, 
Sat an all bright and lofty One, 

Unto whom God had given 
To be the mightiest Angel-Lord 

Within the range of Heaven; 
With power of knowing things to come, 
To judge o'er man, and speak his doom. 

O, he was pure ! the fleecy snow, 
Falling through air to earth below, 

Was not more undefiled: 
Sinless he was as the wreathed smile 

On lip of sleeping child. 
Haply, more like the snow was he, 
Freezing — with all its purity. 

Upon his forehead beamed a star, 
Bright as the lamps of evening are; 

And his pale robe was worn 
About him with a look of pride, 

A high, majestic scorn, 
Which showed he felt his glorious might, 
His favor with the Lord of Light. 

Years, thus he swayed the things of earth — 
O'er human crime and human worth — 

Haughty, and high, and stern; 
Nor ever, at sweet Mercy's call, 

His white neck would turn; 
But listening not to frailty's plea, 
Launched forth each just yet stern decree. 

iFrom the New World (New York), III, p. 394, December 18, 1841. Although "For 
the New World" was printed above this poem, it is certain that it was written, if not 
printed, as early as Whitman's school-teaching days, for one of his pupils refers to it, 
under the title of "The Fallen Angel," as one of the poems that Whitman gave his 
students to recite. See the interview with Charles A. Roe in the "Walt Whitman 
Fellowship Papers," No. 14, where Mr. Roe gives proof of the early composition by 
quoting from the poem. 

Perhaps the poem was suggested by the following quotation from "Sir W. Raleigh" 
which immediately follows it upon the printed page: "Pity. — He that hath pity on an- 
other man's sorrow shall be free from it himself; but he that delighteth in, and scorneth 
the misery of another, shall one time or other fall into it himself." 

These verses were reprinted in the Conservatory February, 1902, XII, p. 189. 


At last, our Father who above 

Sits enthroned with Might, and Truth, and Love, 

And knows our weakness blind, 
Beheld him — proud, and pitying not 

The errors of mankind; 
And doomed him, for a punishment, 
To be forth from his birth-place sent. 

So down this angel from on high 
Came from his sphere, to live and die 

As mortal men have done; 
That he might know the tempting snares 

Which lure each human son; 
And dwell as all on earth have dwelt, 
And feel the grief we all have felt. 

Then he knew Guilt, while round him weaved 
Their spells, pale Sickness, Love deceived, 

And Fear, and Hate, and Wrath; 
And all the blighting ills of Fate 

Were cast athwart his path; 
He stood upon the grave's dread brink, 
And felt his soul with terror sink. 

He learned why men to sin gave way, 
And how we live our passing day 

In indolence and crime; 
But yet his eye with awe looked on, 

To see in all his prime 
That godlike thing, the human mind, 
A gem in black decay enshrined. 

Long years in pennance thus he spent, 
Until the Mighty Parent sent 

His loveliest messenger — 
Who came with step so noiselessly, 

And features passing fair; 
Death was his name; the angel heard 
The call, and swift to heaven he soared. 

There in his former glory placed, 
The star again his forehead graced; 


But never more that brow 
Was lifted up in scorn of sin; 

His wings were folded now — 
But not in pride: his port, though high, 
No more spoke conscious majesty. 

And O, what double light now shone 
About that pure and heavenly one: 

For in the clouds which made 
The veil around his seat of power, 

In silvery robes arrayed, 
Hovered the seraph Charity, 
And Pity with her melting eye. 


One day an obscure youth, a wanderer, 
Known but to few, lay musing with himself 
About the chances of his future life. 
In that youth's heart, there dwelt the coal Ambition, 
Burning and glowing; and he asked himself, 
"Shall I, in time to come, be great and famed?'' 
Now soon an answer wild and mystical 
Seemed to sound forth from out the depths of air; 
And to the gazer's eye appeared a shape 
Like one as of a cloud — and thus it spoke: 

"0, many a panting, noble heart 
Cherishes in its deep recess 
The hope to win renown o'er earth 
From Glory's prized caress. 

"And some will win that envied goal, 

And have their deeds known far and wide; 
And some — by far the most — will sink 
Down in oblivion's tide. 

*From the Brother Jonathan (New York), Vol. I, No. 5, January 29, 184a. This is an 
elaboration of "Fame's Vanity" (see infra, pp. 4-5). All the changes have been im- 
provements, while the opening and closing lines constitute Whitman's first, and almost 
only, blank verse. 

Cf. post, I, pp. 230; II, pp. 125, 152. 


"But thou, who visions bright dost cull 
From the imagination's store, 
With dreams, such as the youthful dream 
Of grandeur, love, and power, 

"Fanciest that thou shalt build a name 
And come to have the nations know 
What conscious might dwells in the brain 
That throbs beneath that brow? 

"And see thick countless ranks of men 
Fix upon thee their reverent gaze — 
And listen to the plaudits loud 
To thee that thousands raise ? 

"Weak, childish soul! the very place 
That pride has made for folly's rest; 
What thoughts, with vanity all rife, 
Fill up thy heaving breast ! 

"At night, go view the solemn stars 

Those wheeling worlds through time the same — 
How puny seem the widest power, 
The proudest mortal name ! 

"Think too, that all, lowly and rich, 
Dull idiot mind and teeming sense, 
Alike must sleep the endless sleep, 
A hundred seasons hence. 

"So, frail one, never more repine, 

Though thou livest on obscure, unknown; 
Though after death unsought may be 
Thy markless resting stone." 

And as these accents dropped in the youth's ears, 
He felt him sick at heart; for many a month 
His fancy had amused and charmed itself 
With lofty aspirations, visions fair 
Of what he might be. And it pierced him sore 
To have his airy castles thus dashed down. 



When painfully athwart my brain 
Dark thoughts come crowding on, 

And, sick of worldly hollowness, 
My heart feels sad and lone — 

Then out upon the green I walk 

Just ere the close of day, 
And swift I ween the sight I view 

Clears all my gloom away. 

For there I see young children — 

The cheeriest things on earth — 
I see them play — I hear their tones 

Of loud and reckless mirth. 

And many a clear and flute-like laugh 

Comes ringing through the air; 
And many a roguish, flashing eye, 

And rich red cheek, are there. 

O, lovely, happy children ! 

I am with you in my soul; 
I shout — I strike the ball with you — 

With you I race and roll. — 

Methinks white-winged angels, 

Floating unseen the while, 
Hover around this village green, 

And pleasantly they smile. 

O, angels! guard these children! 

Keep grief and guilt away: 
From earthly harm — from evil thoughts 

O, shield them night and day! 

1 Printed as an "original" poem in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June I, 1846 (during 
Whitman's editorship of the paper), and signed " W." 


ODE 1 

To be sung on Fort Greene; 4th of July, 1846 
Tune "Star Spangled Banner" 

O, God of Columbia ! O, Shield of the Free ! 

More grateful to you than the fames of old story, 
Must the blood-bedewed soil, the red battle-ground, be 

Where our fore-fathers championed America's glory! 
Then how priceless the worth of the sanctified earth 2 
We are standing on now. Lo! the slopes of its girth 

Where the martyrs were buried: Nor prayers, tears, or stones, 

Marked their crumbled-in coffins, their white holy bones! 


Say! sons of Long-Island! in legend or song, 

Keep ye aught of its record, that day dark and cheerless — 
That cruel of days — when, hope weak, the foe strong, 

Was seen the Serene One — still faithful, still fearless, 
Defending the worth of the sanctified earth 
We are standing on now, etc. 

Oh, yes ! be the answer. In memory still 

We have placed in our hearts, and embalmed there forever! 
The battle, the prison-ship, martyrs, and hill, 

— O, may it be preserved till those hearts death shall sever! 
For how priceless the worth, &c. 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 2, 1 846. This song was reprinted in the Daily 
Eagle]on June 15, 1900, and in the Eagle s "Walt Whitman Centenary Number," May 31, 
1919; it was also used as a motto in Peter Ross's "A History of Long Island" (Chicago 
and New York, 1902), where it is given the title "Sons of Long Island," and is credited 
to "Walt Whitman." The poem was likewise reprinted in the New York Times Maga- 
zine, September 16, 1916, and in "The Gathering of the Forces," I, pp. 75-76. 

The song was duly sung in the patriotic demonstration at Fort Greene on the Fourth 
of July. (See also post, II, p. 255, note.) Whitman's interest in the prison-ship martyrs 
and in their burial-ground appears frequently in his writings, both prose and verse. 
Cf. " Brooklyniana," Chapter $,post, II, pp. 236-245, 266-267; " The Centenarian's Story" 
and "The Wallabout Martyrs" (in "Leaves of Grass," II, 58, and II, 296, respectively). 

^he Eagle text has a comma after earth. 


And shall not the years, as they sweep o'er and o'er, 
Shall they not, even here, bring the children of ages — 

To exult as their fathers exulted before, 

In the freedom achieved by our ancestral sages? 

And the prayer rise to heaven, with pure gratitude given 

And the sky by the thunder of cannon be riven? 
Yea! Yea! let the echo responsively roll 
The echo that starts from the patriot's soul! 

NEW YEAR'S DAY, 1848 « 

A morning fair: A noontide dubious: 
Then gathering clouds obscure the Sun: 
Then rain in torrents falls, subsiding soon 
Into a gentle dropping. By eve the sun 
Sinks into a cloudless west; and a mild breeze 
With pleasant motion stirs the atmosphere. 
Next in the blue vault above do moon and stars 
Vie in bright emulation to destroy the gloom of night. 

Such was our New Year's Day, and eventide! 

Was it not an index of each passing Year, 

Within whose seasons circumstance and change 

Ever with Hope and Happiness war? 

One now superior: anon the other: 

And as succeeds pleasure or pain or joy or sorrow, 

Clouding the firmament of each heart, 

Raindrops of melancholy dim the eyes, 

To shortly dry, hiding the Past and Present 

'Neath bright starry thoughts — 

Suggestive of a Future aye serene. 

1 From the Home Journal (N. Y.), March 30, 1892, where it is preceded by the follow- 
ing explanation: "The following verses were written by Walt Whitman in 1848, in the 
album of a lady, from which a friend of the Home Journal copied them. They do not 
appear in any of the poet's published collections, but are interesting as a specimen of his 
early essays in verse." 

The poem was prophetic, so far as Whitman was concerned, for within the month 
he lost his position as editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, but immediately found an opening 
in New Orleans, whither he took his famous journey in February. 


Day of a coming year promising change, 

Yet full of promises, we need but watch 

And pray for guardianship to come 

Over caprices and all foolish ways ! 

So shall bright sunshine in advancing days 

And starry invitations lead to Heavenly praise. 


Bride of the swart Ohio; 
Nude, yet fair to look upon, 
Clothed only with the leaf, 
As was innocent Eve of Eden. 
The son of grim old Alleghany, 
And white-breasted Monongahela 
Is wedded to thee, and it is well. 

»From the Cincinnati Post, April 30, 1892. The poem is explained in the Post as 

" Parkersburg, W. Va. — April 30. — (Special) — It is well known that the late Walt 
Whitman made a pilgrimage down the Ohio Valley in the year 1849; tftat he stopped on 
Blennerhassett Island for a brief season (a spot almost world-famous in song, story and 
history as the home of the exiled Blennerhassett, and as the scene of Aaron Burr's 
machinations for the destruction of this Republic); that he drank from the historic old 
well of Blennerhassett, and that he retained pleasant recollections of his pilgrimage long 

" But it is not so well-known, in fact, it is scarcely known at all, that he composed a 
characteristic poem while on the visit to the old island which appears in the Post for the 
first time. The original draft of the poem was left at the home of Whitman's enter- 
tainer, old Farmer Johnson, who then lived on the island. The poet took a copy, and 
the Post representative has a copy of the original, so that these three are the only known 
copies of the poem in existence, if indeed the copy which Whitman took exists anywhere. 

"The original draft of the poem has lain unnoticed all these years between the leaves 
of an old Bible. It is written in the irregular, scrawling hand of the much-abused poet 
on a sheet of old-fashioned foolscap paper. It is just such a piece of venerable chiro- 
graphy as would set a Browning student clean daft and throw a Concord blue-stocking 
into a fit of hysterics. 

"The death of Whitman recalled the fact of his visit to the island, and the present 
proprietor of Blennerhassett, Mr. Amos Gordon, having heard something about Whit- 
man and his poem on the island, began a search for it, and finally found it. As an old 
friend, the Post representative was the only person permitted to copy it, and here it is." 

But Whitman's famous pilgrimage was made in 1848, not 1849. If therefore the date 
(" aged 30") be not a mere reckoning by some misinformed person, but Whitman's own, it 
is likely that this poem gives us a hint as to the date of one of Whitman's little-known 
visits to the South. (Cf. post, II, p. 59.) He would not have made a mistake of more 
than a year in his own age at the time. The imagery of the poem suggests the autumn, 
and in September, 1849, Whitman gave up the Freeman, which he had been editing for 
about a year, and so was free to travel. The conclusion that this poem was actually 
written when Whitman was thirty (1849-50) is strengthened by the fact that no mention 
is made of the Island in the account of his first journey down the Ohio. (See " Excerpts of 
a Traveller's Note Book,"^>oj/, II, pp. 181-190.) 


His tawny thighs cover thee 

In the vernal time of spring, 

And lo! in the autumn is the fruitage. 

Virgin of Nature, the holy spirit of the waters enshrouds thee 

And thou art pregnant with the fruits 

Of the field and the vine. 

But like the Sabine maid of old, 

The lust of man hath ravished thee 

And compelled thee to pay tribute to the 

Carnal wants of earth. 

Truth and romance make up thy 

Strange, eventful, history, 

From the cycle of the red man, 

Who bowed at thy shrine and worshipped thee, 

To the dark days of that traitor 1 

Who linked thine innocent name to infamy. 

Farewell, Queen of the waters, 

I have slept upon thy breast in the innocence of a babe, 

But now I leave thee 

To the embraces of thine acknowledged lord. 

At Blennerhassett — Aged 30. 


"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thy 
hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded 
in the house of my friends." — Zechariah, xiii. 6. 

If thou art balked, O Freedom, 
The victory is not to thy manlier foes; 
From the house of friends comes the death stab. 

Vaunters of the Free, 

1 Aaron Burr. 

*From the New York Tribune, June 14, 1850. 

Whitman preserved this poem in the "Collect" under the title "Wounded in the House 
of Friends." But since about one third of the original version was rejected in the re- 
vision, it is deemed useful to include the complete original poem here. 

The Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, the Whig daily with which Whitman had an anony- 
mous connection during the summer of 1850 (see post, I, p. 234, note) in quoting the third 
stanza of this poem, in order to confute Democrats generally, gives the composition a 
local and a personal interpretation: 

"When our friends the locofocos fall out, they occasionally amuse themselves by 


Why do you strain your lungs off southward? 

Why be going to Alabama? 

Sweep first before your own door; 

Stop this squalling and this scorn 

Over the mote there in the distance; 

Look well to your own eye, Massachusetts — 

Yours, New- York and Pennsylvania; 

— I would say yours too, Michigan, 

But all the salve, all the surgery 

Of the great wide world were powerless there. 

Virginia, mother of greatness, 
Blush not for being also the mother of slaves. 
You might have borne deeper slaves — 
Doughfaces, Crawlers, Lice of Humanity — 
Terrific screamers of Freedom, 
Who roar and bawl, and get hot i' the face, 
But, were they not incapable of august crime, 
Would quelch the hopes of ages for a drink — 
Muck-worms, creeping flat to the ground, 
A dollar dearer to them than Christ's blessing; 
All loves, all hopes, less than the thought of gain, 
In life walking in that as in a shroud: 
Men whom the throes of heroes, 
Great deeds at which the gods might stand appalled 
The shriek of a drowned world, the appeal of women, 

drawing portraits of each other. The schism of the Hunkers and Barnburners has been 
especially prolific of these interesting specimens of descriptive literature. The fun 
of it is, that a great deal of what each side says about the other is true. 

"Here, now, is a specimen of the way one of the young democracy, Master Walter 
Whitman, lays it on to the members of ' the party' whom he has had the pleasure of 
knowing: — Master Walter has evidently a very poor opinion of his old cronies; but 
who can wonder at that, after he was in the Brooklyn Eagle so long, and saw the opera- 
tions of the Brooklyn 'democracy'? See now how he talks to 'em; we extract from a 
queer little poem in one of the New York papers. [Here followed the third stanza 

"Well, upon the whole, and considering the opportunities Master Walter has 'en- 
joyed' for taking a full and fair survey of the cautious old leader of ' the party' it is every 
way likely that he has hit the nail very near the head. But then, Master W., it is very 
naughty of you to expose the brethren — very naughty." (June 22, 1850.) 

Whitman and Henry A. Lees, the editor of the Advertizer, had often locked horns and 
even indulged in personal remarks in their respective papers, but Lees never lost an op- 
portunity to play Whitman off against the conservative Democrats, and professed a 
liking for the man. He may have known the author's own reasons for the composition of 
this poem. Perhaps Whitman had in mind the turn of fortune which soon transferred 
the Free-soil paper which he had started (the Freeman) into a Hunker journal. But the 
poem itself seems to imply a somewhat broader view of the whole slavery situation. 


The exulting laugh of untied empires, 
Would touch them never in the heart, 
But only in the pocket. 

Hot-headed Carolina, 
Well may you curl your lip; 
With all your bondsmen, bless the destiny 
Which brings you no such breed as this. 

Arise, young North! 
Our elder blood flows in the veins of cowards — 
The gray-haired sneak, the blanched poltroon, 
The feigned or real shiverer at tongues 
That nursing babes need hardly cry the less for — 
Are they to be our tokens always? 

Fight on, band braver than warriors, 
Faithful and few as Spartans; 
But fear not most the angriest, loudest, malice — 
Fear most the still and forked fang 
That starts from the grass at your feet. 


Suddenly, out of its state 2 and drowsy air, 3 the air 3 of slaves, 
Like lightning Europe le'pt forth, 
Sombre, superb and terrible, 
As Ahimoth, brother of Death. 

The 1855 Version 

SUDDENLY out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves, 

Like lightning Europe le'pt forth . . . half startled at itself, 

Its feet upon the ashes and the rags. ... Its hands tight on the throats of kings, 

^rom the New York Daily Tribune, June 21, 1850. Whitman preserved the poem 
in altered form, in the 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass," pp. 87-88. Here it had no 
title, but in the 1917 edition (II, pp. 27-29), it bears the title "Europe, the 72d and 73d 
Years of These States," as in editions since i860. For variorum readings and alteration 
in title see the 1917 edition, III, pp. 192-193. This is the only poem in the 1855 edition 
known to have been previously published. A comparison of its 1850 version with 
that of 1855, therefore, is of great importance. That the reader may the more easily 
make this comparison I quote the 1855 version here (see also comment in the Critical 
Introduction, p. xci. 

* Apparently a typographical error for stale. Cf. 1855 version and all later versions. 

•Apparently a typographical error for lair. Cf. 1855 version and all later versions; 
also "Complete Prose," p. 207. 


God, 'twas delicious! 

That brief, tight, glorious grip 

Upon the throats of kings. 

You liars paid to defile the People, 

Mark you now: 

Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts, 

For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, 

Worming from his simplicity the poor man's wages; 

For many a promise sworn by royal lips 

And broken, and laughed at in the breaking; 

Then, in their power, not for all these, 

Did a blow fall in personal revenge, 

Or a hair draggle in blood: 

The People scorned the ferocity of kings. 

But the sweetness of mercy brewed bitter destruction, 

And frightened rulers come back: 

Each comes in state, with his train, 

Hangman, priest, and tax-gatherer, 

Soldier, lawyer, and sycophant; 

As appalling procession of locusts, 

And the king struts grandly again. 

Yet behind all, lo, a Shape 

Vague as the night, draped interminably, 

Head, front and form, in scarlet folds, 

O hope and faith! O aching close of lives! O many a sickened heart! 
Turn back unto this day, and make yourselves afresh. 

And you, paid to defile the People . . . you liars mark: 

Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts, 

For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, 

Worming from his simplicity the poor man's wages; 

For many a promise sworn by royal lips, And broken, and laughed at in the breaking, 

Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike of personal revenge ... or 

the heads of the noble fall; 
The People scorn the ferocity of kings. 

But the sweetness of mercy brewed bitter destruction, and the frightened rulers come 

Each comes in state with his train . . . hangman, priest and tax-gatherer . . . 

soldier, lawyer, jailer and sycophant. 

Yet behind all, lo, a Shape, 

Vague as the night, draped interminably, head front and form in scarlet folds, 


Whose face and eyes none may see, 
Out of its robes only this, 
The red robes, lifted by the arm, 
One finger pointed high over the top, 
Like the head of a snake appears. 

Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves, 

Bloody corpses of young men; 

The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, 

The bullets of tyrants are flying, 

The creatures of power laugh aloud: 

And all these things bear fruits, and they are good. 

Those corpses of young men, 

Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, 

Those hearts pierced by the grey lead, 

Cold and motionless as they seem, 

Live elsewhere with undying vitality; 

They live in other young men, O, kings, 

They live in brothers, again ready to defy you; 

They were purified by death, 

They were taught and exalted. 

Not a grave of those slaughtered ones, 

But is growing its seed of freedom, 

In its turn to bear seed, 

Which the winds shall carry afar and resow, 

And the rain nourish. 

Whose face and eyes none may see, 

Out of its robes only this . . . the red robes, lifted by the arm, 

One finger pointed high over the top, like the head of a snake appears. 

Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves . . . bloody corpses of young men: 
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily . . . the bullets of princes are flying . . . 

the creatures of power laugh aloud, 
And all these things bear fruits . . . and they are good. 

Those corpses of young men, 

Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets . . . those hearts pierced by the gray 

Cold and motionless as they seem . . . live elsewhere with unslaughter'd vitality. 

They live in other young men, O kings, 

They live in brothers, again ready to defy you: 

They were purified by death. . . . They were taught and exalted. 

Not a grave of the murdered for freedom but grows seed for freedom . . . in its 

turn to bear seed, 
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish. 


Not a disembodied spirit 
Can the weapon of tyrants let loose, 
But it shall stalk invisibly over the earth. 
Whispering, counselling, cautioning. 

Liberty, let others despair of thee, 1 

But I will never despair of thee: 

Is the house shut? Is the master away? 

Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching, 

He will surely return; his messengers come anon. 2 

[On Duluth, Minnesota] 3 

The nations hear thy message; 
A fateful word; oh, momentous 
Audition ! The murmur of waves 
Bearing heavy freighted argosies; the sigh 
Of gently stirring life in the birth-beds 
Of not o'er distant grain fields; the 

Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose, 

But it stalks invisibly over the earth . . . whispering counseling cautioning. 

Liberty let others despair of you . . . I never despair of you. 

Is the house shut? Is the master away? 

Nevertheless be ready . . . be not weary of watching, 

He will soon return ... his messengers come anon. 

1 This/^ giving place to the you of the 1855 and later editions is an illustration of 
Whitman's "getting rid of the stock poetical touches" which appeared in the first drafts 
of his "Leaves of Grass." Observe also the omission of the reference to Ahimoth (I.4) 
in the 1855 edition. 

i Cf. "Matthew," xxiv: 48-50. 

3 From the New Orleans Item, April 2, 1892, where it is prefaced by the following 

"Duluth, Minn. April 4. — (Special). — A fragment of a poem by the late Walt 
Whitman, written while in this city a year ago, is published here to-day. The good 
gray poet was quite impressed with Duluth, whose interests were shown him by a 
friend, and after leaving he sent his friend the following, which has remained unprinted 
until now." 

But the only time that Whitman is known to have been at all near Duluth was on the 
return from his 1848 visit to New Orleans. If this poem were written by him then, it 
would be a companion, though a poor one, to "Isle of La Belle Riviere." It is possible 
that the outrageous division of the lines is due to a careless reading of the manuscript. It 
is more likely that the whole is a puerile attempt at burlesque. It is given here only 
because, since it is ascribed to Whitman on its first publication, the reader should judge 
for himself how authentic the authorship is likely to be. 


Solemn plaint of pines whose limbs 

Quite feel the bite of men's 

Omnivorous axe; the roar, 

Like old Enceladus's of furnaces volcanic 

And Hell-like; the thunderous and 

Reverberant iteration 

Of hammers striking the uncomplaining anvil. 

These are all in thy voice. 

To what end ? Because thou singest 

Of empire and the great To Come, 

General good, Democracy, the 

Return at length to things primeval, 

And, therefore, real and true, 

And worth returning unto. 

Then sing, Duluth, thy 

Song, and listen, 


Or it will repent ye, 

When the bridegroom cometh. 



At Northport, on Sunday, 28th ultimo, an unfortunate and 
somewhat singular accident occurred from the lightning. Mr. 
Abraham Miller, of that place, had been in the fields, engaged 
in some farm work, and was returning home, as a storm com- 
menced in the afternoon, carrying in his hands a pitchfork. A 
friend of his who was with him advised him not to carry it, as he 
considered it dangerous. Mr. Miller, however, did not put 
down the fork, but continued walking with it; he had gone 
some distance on his way home, and had just put up the bars 
of a fence he passed through when a violent clap of thunder 
occurred, followed by a sharp flash. The acquaintance of Mr. 
Miller was slightly stunned by the shock and turning round to 
look at his companion he saw him lying on his face motionless. 
He went to him and found him dead, the lightning, having 
been attracted by the steel tines of the fork, had torn his hand 
slightly, and killed him on the instant. 


From the Desk of a Schoolmaster 

Amidst the universal excitement which appears to have been 
created of late years, with regard to the evils created by ardent 

*From the Long Island Democrat, August 8, 1838, where it is copied from the Long 
Islander y then being edited by Whitman. (See infra, I, p. 1, note.) This is the earliest 
extant prose from Whitman's pen. 

3 From the Long Island Democrat, April 28, 1 840, where it is copied from the Hempstead 
Inquirer. This paper is unnumbered, but apparently should be Number 5 of the series. 

Whitman's authorship of these sketches is established by both internal and external 
evidence. The internal evidence consists not only in the celebration of ideas which Whit- 
man was to make famous later on but in the utilization of practically a whole sentence, 



spirits, it seems to have been forgotten that there are other, 
and almost as injurious, kinds of intemperance. The practice 
of using tobacco, in any shape, is one of these. Not only does 
the custom contribute to the discomfort of company, but it is, 
in itself, a fruitful source of ill to those that use it. 

This is sufficiently proved by the fact, that the first taste of it 
almost invariably causes sickness and nausea. Our young men, 
however, entertain an idea that there is something very manly 
in having a segar stuck in the corner of their lips; or a round 
ball of sickening weed that a dog would not touch, rolling in 
their mouths. Boys, like monkeys, are generally ambitious 
of apeing their superiors; and many a young fellow has volun- 
tarily undergone hours of misery in learning how to smoke or 
chew, in order that he might perfectly acquire this noble accom- 
plishment, and assume the attributes of manhood. There is 
something very majestic, truly, in seeing a human being with a 
long roll of black leaves held between his teeth, and projecting 
eight or ten inches before him. It has been said by some satiri- 
cal individual, that a fishing-rod is a thing with a hook at one 
extremity, and a fool at the other: it may with much more truth 
be affirmed, that a segar, generally has a smoky fire at one end, 
& a conceited spark at the other. Weak, and silly indeed, must 
be that youth, who thinks that these are the characteristics of 
manhood, they are much oftener the proofs of empty brains, and 
a loaferish disposition. 1 

the first in "Sun-Down Paper, No. 6," in a signed Whitman sketch, "The Little Sleigh- 
ers" (see the last paragraph on I, p. 91, post). The external evidence is to be found in an 
editorial by E. B. Spooner (son of the Aldin Spooner for whom Whitman had as a boy set 
type on the Long Island Star) in the Star (now the Brooklyn Evening Star) for July 30, 
1 841, anent Whitman's speech in the Park and his apparent entry into politics: "He 
[Maj. Davezac] was followed by Walter Whitman, of Long Island. Heaven save the 
mark. Shall not we have some more small scraps from the desk of a school-master? We 
feel ourselves bound to look after Long Islanders, and this is a great joke! Come back 
young man, come back and finish your apprenticeship. Teaching very small children 
may be an easy life, but teaching those big children of Tammany Hall may look big 
but it seems very farcical." It will be observed that this comes just after the last 
"Sun-Down Paper" was published, and from a man who knew Whitman well. It is also 
known, through the family of James J. Brenton, who owned and edited the Long Island 
Democraty that Whitman was a valued contributor to the pages of the paper, which 
could hardly have been said of his verse alone. (See Introduction, p. xxxiii, note.) 

Diligent search has been made for the missing numbers of the series, but I have been 
unable to locate a file of the Hempstead Inquirer that goes back to the required date, and 
even the various files of the Long Island Democrat and the Long Island Farmer that I 
have examined are somewhat incomplete.,!, pp. 44-46. 


Custom may, and does, enable some people to become so 
habituated to these things, that they produce no very evident 
evil. But it is still not less the cause [case] that they do produce 
evil. They weaken the strength of the nervous system; they al- 
ternately excite & depress the powers of the brain; and they act 
with constant and insidious attacks upon the health. There 
may be instances where these effects do not follow; for there 
are some men who have such horselike constitutions, that if 
they were to eat the shovel and tongs, these would not sit heav- 
ily on their stomachs; nor would a blacksmith's hammer be 
able to shatter their nerves. These are exceptions to the cor- 
rectness of my assertions with regard to the evils of tobacco; but 
facts and the experience of medical men will bear me out in say- 
ing that they are generally true. 

The excessive use of tea and coffee, too, is a species of intem- 
perance much to be condemned. It is astonishing that people 
can consent to take twice a day, three or four gills of a hot liquid 
into their stomachs to destroy its tone and impair its legitimate 
powers. And not only this; for it would not be so bad if it was 
pure water merely; but it must be infused with a bitter and 
unpleasant shrub — and to crown the climax of absurdity, it must 
have a lump of sugar to take away the bitter taste, and a spoon- 
ful of milk to destroy its insupportable hotness. 

Into what ridiculous lengths can people be led by fashion! 
Hot drinks of this kind are fatal to the teeth, deleterious to 
physical strength, the cause of impure blood, and the means of 
producing many a head ache, many a pale face, and many an 
emaciated body. 

In conclusion, I would remark, that I am not one of those 
who would deny people any sensual delights because I think it 
a sin to be happy and to take pleasure in the good things of this 
life. On the contrary, I am disposed to allow every rational 
gratification, both to the palate, and the other senses. I con- 
sider that we were placed here [by the Creator] for two beneficent 
purposes; to fulfil our duty, and to enjoy the almost innumerable 
comforts and delights which he has provided for us. 1 But the 
pernicious things I have mentioned are not worthy the name of 
comforts: long habit may have caused them to be regarded as 
such by some people; but nature, and experience, and enlight- 
ened reason, all go to prove their injurious effect. 
* t II, p. 146. 


From the desk of a Schoolmaster 

I know not a prettier custom than that, said to have been 
prevalent among several nations, of strewing the coffins of young 
people with flowers. When persons of middle or old age die, the 
work of the Pale Mower seems connected with something of 
roughness: it creates what I would call a coarse kind of grief, 
often overpowering, and always without any aid from very refined 
associations. But when we see an infant laid away to a quiet 
slumber in the bosom of the great mother of men — when we be- 
hold a young girl departed to those mysterious regions which 
we are fond of believing to be filled with resplendent innocence 
and beauty — or when we look on a boy, shrouded in the cere- 
ments of death, his hair parted on his forehead, and those feat- 
ures and limbs that we have known as so joyous and active 
now without motion, and all prepared for that fearful ceremony, 
the burying — then our painful sensations have much about them 
of gentleness and poetic melancholy. In the last cases, our grief 
is not gross, but delicate, like the just perceptible fragrance of 
the lily: in the former, it more resembles the scent of a thick 
and full blown rose. 

One reason, probably, of this different mode of view is this: 
we are well aware that men who have lived a length of time in 
the world, must have committed many little meannesses — must 
have done wrong on various occasions — must have had the 
fine bloom of simplicity and nature nearly rubbed off — and must 
have been connected with much that would sully that healthi- 
ness and freshness of character, which almost every body has 
for the first few years of life — while with the quite young none of 
these things have happened: they are taken away, like blossoms 
with the dew upon them, in all their sweetness and modesty : time 
has not seared up the delightful spring of spirits; the course of 
years has not withered that susceptibility and pliancy which 
might be turned to so much account, but is so often misdirected 
by the carelessness of the old; nor have Guilt and Wretchedness 
yet had dominion over them. — The contrast between the two 
cases is, therefore, the contrast between the drying up of some 
clear and narrow brook, and the extinction of an inland river: 
the latter stronger, to be sure, and of more importance than the 

» From the Long Island Democrat, August 1 1, 1 840. 


other, but not so pure, transparent, and resigned. The last would 
leave a greater vacuum also; but on its dry bed would remain signs 
of its having done evil — traces of its fury, its remorselessness, and 
its treacherous wrecking of what had been trusted to its bosom. 

When a man dies, who can say what deep stains may have 
rested, at one time or another, upon his soul? what crimes 
(untouchable, perhaps, by the laws of men or the rules of so- 
ciety) he has committed, either in evil wishes or in reality? 
How many persons go down to the grave, praised by the world 
and pointed to as examples, who were still far, very far, from 
good men! They may have respected custom, honored the 
government, followed the fashion, paid to public charity every 
cent which the law demanded, kept clear of glaring transgres- 
sions, stood up or bowed down their heads in houses of worship 
just at the due time, and still, if we could open their hearts and 
see what went on there we should be sickened and amazed! It 
is a true saying, that we can never, in the great drama of life, 
pronounce judgment upon the good or ill performance of his 
part by a fellow creature, until the last act and the last scene are 
over, the bell rung, and the curtain dropped. — With the dead 
girl or boy, the transient play is finished: we know that the worst 
deeds they ever committed were but children's follies; and 
one great balm, on such oocasions, is the knowledge, that for 
them the future has no terrors, the time to come no temptations 
or miseries. 

Perhaps I may as well relate, in conclusion, the incident that 
has given rise to these reflections. I have just received, through 
a newspaper, intelligence of the death of one whom I knew 
slightly, and whose gentleness and brightness of intellect could 
not help endearing him to all who love the young. His age was 
fourteen or fifteen years: he died at a place some distance from 
home, where he had been sent for his education. The last time 
I saw him, we walked a mile or two together. It was in the 
country, and the season was Autumn. How little did I think 
that ere the grain or fruits would ripen again he would be 
blighted! — that his Autumn would arrive ere the Spring had 
passed. Rest in peace, young boy! Your silver thread of life 
is cut soon; but there are ills on earth to make men envy your 
fate. Your sleep is calm and quiet. Oh, when the pulse grows 
faint with its last throbbing — when the cold sweat has dried 
upon the brow — when the pan tings of "life's fitful fever" 1 have 
rMacbeth," III, 2, 23. 


ceased — then let us hope to meet you in that far off land of 
mystery which passes the imagination of man to conceive or 
the utmost stretch of his intellect to trace. 


From the desk of a Schoolmaster 

I think that if I should make pretensions to be a philosopher, 
and should determine to edify the world with what would 
add to the number of those sage and ingenious theories which do 
already so much abound, I would compose a wonderful and 
ponderous book. Therein should be treated on, the nature and 
peculiarities of men, the diversity of their characters, the means 
of improving their state, and the proper mode of governing 
nations; with divers other points whereon I could no doubt 
throw quite as much light as do many of those worthy gentlemen, 
who, to the delight and instruction of our citizens, occasionally 
treat upon these subjects in printed periodicals, in books, and in 
publick discourses. 2 At the same time that I would do all this, I 
would carefully avoid saying any thing of woman; because it be- 
hoves a modest personage like myself not to speak upon a class 
of beings of whose nature, habits, notions, and ways he has not 
been able to gather any knowledge, either by experience or ob- 

Nobody, I hope, will accuse me of conceit in these opinions of 
mine own capacity for doing great things. In good truth, I 
think the world suffers from this much-bepraised modesty. 3 
Who should be a better judge of a man's talents than the man 
himself? I see no reason why we should let our lights shine 
under bushels. Yes: I would write a book! And who shall 
say that it might not be a very pretty book? Who knows but 
that I might do something very respectable? 

And one principal claim to a place among men of profound 
sagacity, by means of the work I allude to, would be on ac- 
count of a wondrous and important discovery, a treatise upon 
which would fill up the principal part of my compilation. ^1^ 
havejo und out that it is a ver ydange rous thing to be rich. 4 
ToTXconsiderable time past thi s ldeaTTias beerT pressing upon 

"From the Long Island Democrat, September 29, 1 840. 

*C/. post, II, p. 76. * Cf. post, II, p. 89. * Cf. infra, pp. Ill, 123-125 II, pp. 63, 67. 


me; and I am now fully andunalterably coj ivincedof its truth. 
Som e years ago, when m y judgemejnjLwas_in the b ud7T~tKoufihT 
jjcheswere very desirable t hings. But I have altered my mindT 
Light has flowed in upon me] I am not quite so green as I was. 
The mists and clouds have cleared away, and I can now behold 
things as they really are . Do you want to know some of the 
causes of this change ot7)pinion ? Look yonder. See the sweat 
pouring down that man's face. See the wrinkles on his narrow 
forehead. He is a poor, miserable, rich man. He has been up 
since an hour before sunrise, fussing, and mussing, and toiling 
and wearying, as if there were no safety for his life, except in 
uninterrupted motion. He is worried from day to day to pre- 
serve and take care of his possessions. He keeps horses; 
and one of them is by him. Look at the miserable brute (the 
horse, I mean). See how his sides pant. I warrant me, the 
animal has no rest for the soles of his feet. 

I don't know when I have been more pleased than I was the 
other day by an illustration which a friend of mine gave of 
the trouble of great wealth. Life, said he, is a long journey 
by steamboat, stagecoach, and railroad. We hardly get fairly 
and comfortably adjusted in the vehicle that carries us for the 
time being, when we are obliged to stop and get into another 
conveyance, and go a different road. We are continually on the 
move. We may sometimes flatter ourselves in the idea of 
making a comfortable stop, with time enough to eat our dinner 
and lounge about a little; but the bell rings, the steam puffs, the 
horn blows, the waiters run about half mad, every thing is 
hurry-scurry for a moment, and whiz! we are off again. What 
wise man thinks of cumbering up this journey with an immense 
mass of luggage? Who, that makes pretensions to common 
sense, will carry with him a dozen trunks, and bandboxes, hat- 
boxes, valises, chests, umbrellas, and canes innumerable, be- 
sides two dirty shirts in the crown of his hat, and a heavy brass 
watch that won't keep time, in his waistcoat pocket? 

This is, in all sincerity, a true picture of the case. People 
groan, and grieve, and work, to no other purpose than merely 
their own inconvenience. And when at last they arrive at the 
grand stopping place for their travels here, and start on that 
mysterious train we all go with sooner or later, they find that 
the Grand Engineer admits no luggage therein. There is no 
freight car to the Hidden Land. Money and property must be 
left behind. The noiseless and strange attendants gather 


from every passenger his ticket, and heed not whether he be 
dark or fair, clad in homespun or fine apparel. Happy he whose 
wisdom has purchased beforehand a token of his having settled 
satisfactorily for the journey! 

From the Desk of a Schoolmaster 

On a pleasant, still, summer evening, I once took a walk down 
a lane that borders our village. The moon was shining with a 
luscious brightness; I gazed on the glorious evidences of divinity 
hanging above me, and as 1 gazed strange and fitful thoughts 
occupied my brain. I reflected on the folly and vanity of those 
objects with which most men occupy their lives; and the awe and 
dread with which they approach its close. I remembered the 
strife for temporary and puerile distinctions — the seeking after 
useless and cumbersome wealth — the yielding up the diseased 
mind to be a prey to constant melancholy and discontent; all 
which may be daily seen by those who have intercourse with the 
sons of men. But, most of all, I thought on the troubles caused 
under the name of Truth and Religion — the dissentions which 
have arisen between those of opposing creeds — and the quarrels 
and bickerings that even now prevail among men upon the slight- 
est and most trivial points of opinion in these things. While 
such imaginings possessed my mind, I unconsciously seated 
myself upon a grassy bank; weariness, induced by the fatigues 
of the day, overpowered me; I sank into a tranquil sleep, and 
the spirit of dreams threw his misty veil about my soul. 

I was wandering over the earth in search of Truth. 2 Cities 
were explored by my enterprise; and the mouldy volumes which 
for years had lain undisturbed, were eagerly scanned to discover 
the object of my labours. Among the pale and attenuated 
votaries of science, I mixed as with kindred spirits; and the 
proudest of the learned were my familiars. My piercing 
gaze penetrated far down into the mines of knowledge, en- 
deavouring to reach that jewel fairer, and brighter, and more 
precious than earthly jewels; but in vain, for it eluded my sight. 
Through the crowded ranks of men who swarm in thickly peopled 

» From the Long Island Democrat, October 20, 1 84a 
*Cf. "Complete Prose," pp. 232-333. 


places, I took my way, silent and unobserved, but ever on the 
alert for a clew to guide me toward the attainment of that which 
was the hope of my soul. I entered the gorgeous temples where 
pride, dressed in rich robes, preaches the doctrine of the holy 
and just Nazarene: I waited at the courts of powerful princes, 
where pomp, and grandeur, and adoration combined to make a 
frail mortal think himself mighty: I stood in the presence of the 
youthful and the gay — beauty, flashing in its bloom — strength, 
rearing itself in pride — revellers, and dancers, and feasters. 
But my heart turned comfortless from them all, for it had not 
attained its desire, and disappointment was heavy upon it. I 
then travelled to distant and uncivilized regions. Far in the 
north, among mountains of snow and rivers of ice, I sought what 
alone could gratify me. I lived, too, with the rude Tartar in 
his tent, and installed myself in all the mysteries which are 
known to the Lamas of Thibet. I wandered to a more southern 
clime, and disputed with the Brahmins, who profess to believe 
in a religion that has existed for more centuries than any other 
one has years. The swarthy worshipper of fire made known to 
me his belief; and the devotee of the camel-driver of Mecca 
strived for my conversion to his faith. But useless was all my 
toil, and valueless were all the immense stores of learning I had 
acquired. I was baffled in all my attempts, and only began new 
projects to find them meet with as little success as the former. 

Sick and disheartened, I retired far from the inhabited por- 
tions of earth, and lived in solitude amid a wild and moun- 
tainous country. I there spent my time in reflection, and 
the pursuit of the various branches of learning, and lived upon 
the frugal produce of the neighboring fields. I had one day 
travelled to some distance from my usual retreat, and kept in- 
sensibly wandering onward and onward, till I found myself sud- 
denly brought to a stand by an immense ledge of rocks which 
rose almost perpendicularly in front of me, and, reaching far 
away on each side, effectually closed up my advance. The 
top of this stupendous pile was hidden in the clouds, and so 
steep was it that it seemed impossible to ascend. I stood per- 
plexed and wondering, incited by curiosity to explore its heights 
and warned by prudence to return to my cell, when I heard a 
low but clear and silvery voice pronounce these words, as if 
from the cloud over my head: 

"Mortal, thou hast now an opportunity of seeing what has 
been the search of thy life. From the top of the mountain 


which rises before thee, thou mayest behold on the opposite side 
the holy altar of Truth. Ascend, and refresh thine eyes with the 
picture of its loveliness. " 

Amazed and transported with this assurance, I immediately 
began to climb the precipice. The ascent was rugged and dif- 
ficult, but perseverance and incessant vigour enabled me to 
surmount every bar. I succeeded in reaching the top, and 
threw myself, panting and covered with sweat, on the stony sand. 
When weariness had at length given way before the power of 
repose, I walked onwards over the mountain, which was com- 
posed of sterile black rocks and sand, with not a spot of verdure 
to relieve its gloomy appearance, and at length arrived at the 
brow of the precipice. On this side, the mountain appeared 
still more steep, and to advance to the edge was evidently 
attended with great danger. I did so, however, and my dazzled 
eyes fell on a sight more beautiful than was ever before re- 
vealed to mortals. Far below stretched a country exceeding 
the imagination of the seeker after pleasure, and more lovely 
than the dreams which benignant spirits sometimes weave 
around the couch of youth and innocence. The surface of the 
land was covered with soft grass, and with fragrant trees, and 
shrubs, and flowers, far fresher and fairer than those of our 
world. Here and there it was decked with sparkling streams of 
water, sweet as the tear which falls in behalf of sorrow from 
the eye of virtue, and fair as snow-drops in the tresses of 
beauty. These brooks broke occasionally into little cascades, 
which gushed forth joyously, and seemed to murmur their 
happiness in sounds of thankful gratitude to heaven. 

But it was not the flowers, or the rich verdure, or the bubbling 
waters that attracted my attention. The scene was delight- 
fully variegated with rolls and slight elevations of land: on the 
highest of these I beheld a white marble base, on which were 
raised several columns, and over the whole was thrown a roof 
of the same material, presenting an edifice of singular appear- 
ance, but of the most exquisite finish. I could not at once make 
out its proportions, for there appeared around it something like 
a mist, which was the more singular, as in every other place the 
light was of a radiant clearness. In fact, when I first viewed 
the spot, though I was on the alert, this temple, if so it may be 
called, did not strike my eye at all; but now, by dint of the 
most intent gazing, I could perceive its various parts with tol- 
erable accuracy. While I was communing with myself in what 


manner I should endeavour to reach the ground below, and ex- 
plore the very recesses of the marble temple, the silence around 
me was suddenly broken, and I heard the voice which had once 
before addressed me at the foot of the mountain, speaking in 
tones which sounded like the notes of a flute breathed through 
groves of spicy flowers: 

"Seek not, O child of clay/' it said, "to discover that which is 
hidden by an allseeing God, from the knowledge of mortals! 
Wert thou to attain thy desire, thou wouldst still be impotent, 
for thine eyes, covered as they are with the dark web of mortal- 
ity, would be unable to comprehend the awful mysteries which 
Nature veils from thy mind. But turn thy gaze to the left, 
below the hill on which the temple stands, and learn a lesson of 
instruction which will repay all thy fatigue." 

The voice ceased, and, struck with awe, I looked in the direc- 
tion it had pointed out to me. I beheld a country different en- 
tirely from the one I have just described, and in almost every 
respect like that earth on which we live. It was not far from 
the temple of Truth, which could be perceived from it, but the 
two were divided by an impassable vacuum. Upon the small 
spot of ground which resembled our native planet, I beheld 
many people, of all classes, and nations, and tongues and dresses, 
constantly passing, with their attention directed toward the 
temple. Each one seemed to view it with the utmost care, and 
to wish to penetrate the veil of surrounding mist that dimmed 
its clearness. There was one thing, however, which astonished 
and at first somewhat bewildered me. I observed that each one 
of these inquirers after Truth held in his hand an optical glass 
and never gazed at the temple but through its medium. Upon 
observing closely, I saw that these glasses were of the most in- 
congruous shapes and forms, and exercised singular and amaz- 
ing power over the appearance of whatever was beheld through 
them. With some they were narrow and contracted, making 
the temple appear insignificant and mean. Some had them of 
one colour, and others of a different. Many of the glasses were of 
so gross a texture, that the temple was completely hid from view. 
Some of them distorted it into the most grotesque shapes and 
forms: others again would make it appear an ordinary edifice; 
and few were so true as to give a view of the temple nigh to its 
correct representation. But if whatever correctness were these 
glasses, each individual persisted in looking at the object of his 
attention through their aid. No one, or at least very few, was 


seen to examine the temple with the clear and undistorted organs 
which nature had given him: and that few, I found, were 
scoffed at and persecuted by all the others, who, though they 
differed to the utmost in their manner of viewing Truth among 
themselves, yet united to a man in condemning those who en- 
deavoured to see what little could be perceived of the temple 
without the false assistance of some glass or other. 

I stood gazing on these things, perplexed, and hardly knowing 
what to think of them, when I once more heard the voice 
which had twice addressed me. It had lost none of its sweet- 
ness, but there was now in it an admonishing tone which sank 
into my soul as the rich stores of learning penetrate the open 
ears of attention: 

"Behold!" thus it spoke, "and learn wisdom from the spec- 
tacles which have been this day unfolded to thine eyes. Thou 
hast gazed upon the altar of Nature; but hast seen how impos- 
sible it is to penetrate the knowledge which is stored within it. 
Let pride therefore depart from thy soul, and let a sense of the 
littleness of all earthly acquirements bow down thy head in awe 
before the mighty Creator of a million worlds. Thou hadst 
seen that whatever of the great light of Truth it has been 
deemed expedient to show to mortals can be most truly and 
usefully contemplated by the plain eye of simplicity, unac- 
companied by the clogs and notions which dim the gaze of most 
men — and hast with wonder seen how all will still continue to 
view the noblest objects of desire through the distorted medium 
of their own prejudices and bigotry. The altar of Truth is immu- 
table, unchangeable and firm, ever the same bright emanation 
from God, and ever consistent with its founder. Though worlds 
shoot out of existence — though stars grow dim, and whole sys- 
tems are blotted out of being by the hand of the mighty con- 
queror, Change — yet will Nature and Truth, for they two in [are] 
one, stand up in everlasting youth and bloom and power. 
Thou seest, then, how miserable are all the creeds and doctrines 
prevailing among men, which profess to bring down these awful 
mysteries, [as] things which they can fathom and search out. 
Kneel, then, oh! insect of an hour, whose every formation is sub- 
ject enough for an eternity of wonder — and whose fate is 
wrapped in a black shroud of uncertainty — kneel on that earth 
which thou makest the scene of thy wretched strife after corrup- 
tible honors — of thy own little schemes for happiness — and of 
thy crimes and guilt — kneel, bend thy face to the sand, spread 


out the puny arms with which thy pride would win so much glory 
— and adore with a voiceless awe, that Unknown Power, the very 
minutest idea of whose abode and strength, and formation, and 
intentions, it would be more difficult for thee to comprehend 
than for a stroke of thy hand to push out of their orbits the suns 
and systems which make the slightest evidence of his strength. " 

Speechless and trembling, I listened to the sounds of this 
awful voice. I had sunk to the earth in fear, for a strange 
and pervading terror had filled my frame, while the unseen 
spirit had given utterance to his words. But at length I 
arose, and endeavored to return the gratitude of my soul for 
the priceless treasures which had been showered upon my mind. 

The agitations of my thoughts, however, broke my slumbers. 
I awoke and found that the moon had long raised her radiant 
face, and was throwing down floods of light to illuminate the 
earth. The cold mists of night had stiffened my limbs, and 
were falling heavy around on the wet grass. I slowly wended 
my way homeward, my soul improved in knowledge, and deter- 
mined to treasure during life the instruction I had gained from 
the vision that night. 

From the Desk of a Schoolmaster 

How I do love a loafer! Of all human beings, none equals 
your genuine, inbred, unvarying loafer. Now when I say loafer, 
I mean loafer; not a fellow who is lazy by fits and starts — who to- 
day will work his twelve or fourteen hours, and to-morrow doze 
and idle. I stand up for no such half-way business. Give me 
your calm, steady, philosophick son of indolence; one that 
does n't swerve from the beaten track; a man who goes the un- 
divided beast. To such an one will I doff my beaver. No 
matter whether he be a street loafer or a dock loafer — whether 
his hat be rimless, and his boots slouched, and his coat out at 
the elbows: he belongs to that ancient and honourable frater- 
nity, whom I venerate above all your upstarts, your dandies, 
and your political oracles. 

All the old philosophers were loafers. Take Diogenes for 
instance. He lived in a tub, and demeaned himself like a 

1 From the Long Island Democrat, November 28, 1 840., II, p. 314. 


true child of the great loafer family. Or go back farther, if you 
like, even to the very beginning. What was Adam, I should 
like to know, but a loafer? Did he do any thing but loaf ? Who 
is foolish enough to say that Adam was a working man? Who 
dare aver that he dealt in stocks, or was busy in the sugar line? 

I hope you will not so far expose yourself as to ask, who was 
the founder of loafers. Know you not, ignorance, that there 
never was such a thing as the origin of loaferism? We don't 
acknowledge any founder. There have always been loafers 
as they were in the beginning, are now, and ever shall be — 
having no material difference. Without any doubt, when 
Chaos had his acquaintance cut, and the morning stars sang 
together, and the little rivers danced a cotillion for pure fun — 
there were loafers somewhere about, enjoying the scene in 
all their accustomed philosophick quietude. 

When I have been in a dreamy, musing mood, I have some- 
times amused myself with picturing out a nation of loafers. 
Only think of it! an entire loafer kingdom! How sweet it 
sounds! Repose, — quietude, — roast duck, — loafer. Smooth 
and soft are the terms to our jarred tympanums. 

Imagine some distant isle inhabited altogether by loafers. 
Of course there is a good deal of sunshine, for sunshine is 
the loafer's natural element. All breathes peace and harmony. 
No hurry, or bustle, or banging, or clanging. Your ears ache no 
more with the din of carts; the noisy politician offends you not, 
no wrangling, no quarreling, no loco focos, no British whigs. 

Talk about your commercial countries, and your national 
industry, indeed! Give us the facilities of loafing, and you are 
welcome to all the benefits of your tariff system, your manu- 
facturing privileges, and your cotton trade. For my part, I 
have had serious thoughts of getting up a regular ticket for 
President and Congress and Governor and so on, for the loafer 
community in general. I think we loafers should organize. 
We want somebody to carry out "our principles." It is my im- 
pression, too, that we should poll a pretty strong vote. We 
number largely in the land. At all events our strength would 
enable us to hold the balance of power, and we should be courted 
and coaxed by all the rival factions. And there is no telling but 
what we might elect our men. Stranger things than that have 
come to pass. 

These last hints I throw out darkly, as it were. I by no 
means assert that we positively will get up and vote for, a regu- 


lar ticket to support the "great measures of our party." I am 
only telling what may be done, in case we are provoked. Myster- 
ious intimations have been thrown out — dark sayings uttered, 
by those high in society, that the grand institution of loaferism 
was to be abolished. People have talked of us sneeringly and 
frowningly. Cold eyes have been turned upon us. Over- 
bearing men have spoken in derogatory terms about our rights 
and our dignity. 1 You had better be careful, gentlemen. 
You had better look out how you irritate us. It would make 
you look sneaking enough, if we were to come out at the next 
election, and carry away the palm before both your political 

SUN-DOWN PAPERS— [No. 9, bis]* 
From the Desk of a Schoolmaster 

As I was taking a solitary walk the other evening, the moon 
and stars shining over me with a beautiful brightness, I came 
suddenly upon a man with whom I was bitterly at variance. 
The philosophic meditation which the balmy coolness and the 
voluptuousness of the scene had led me into, being thus broken 
in upon, my thoughts took a different channel. I considered 
within myself, how evil a thing it is to be at enmity. I thought 
of the surpassing folly of a man in allowing his disposition to 
hate, whether in a great or little degree, to be cherished in his 
mind. — This individual, my enemy, and I, had differed upon a 
matter of opinion; a sharp word had passed, and after that 
there was an impassable gulf between us. Miserable childish- 

iThe editorial in the column adjoining the above paper deals with "School Matters." 
Criticizing the inspectors of schools, it says: "Half the time they allow certificates to men 
ignorant and stupid, of shattered characters, of questionable morality, of intemperate 
habits, of blasphemous tongues, or of raw and illiterate minds. Two thirds of the 
common school teachers are unfit for the office. As a class, they are by no means of the 
highest order. They seem to be made up, in the main, of persons who have broken 
down in other business, who are too ignorant or too lazy to do anything else, and who 
take up the profession, because they can't get any other way to make a living. Passing 
about here and there, they acquire irregular habits, and fall into dissolute trains of 
thinking and acting. Most of them are far more proper subjects for feeling the rod than 
wielding the rod. They begin and go through the accustomed routine of the school 
room, and at the end of the week it is fortunate for the young tribe, if they are as far 
ahead as they were when they began." Cf. post, II, pp. 13— 1 5, 1 24. 

'From the Long Island Democrat, July 6, 1841. 


ness! that man, the insect of an hour, 1 whose life is but a pass- 
ing breath, must have his mighty quarrels with his brother, 
and for something of a feather's value, entrench himself upon 
his dignity, and meet his fancied foe with a scowl or a contemp- 
tuous lip-curl. 

He to whom many persons are hateful is a very unhappy be- 
ing. It is far better to love than to hate. But even he who 
leans neither upon one side or the other, but jogs through the 
world with no stronger feeling for his fellows than indifference, 
loses all the rich bloom and flavor of life. Down in every 
human heart there are many sweet fountains, which require 
only to be touched in order to gush forth. Yet there are 
hundreds and thousands of men who go on from year to year 
with their pitiful schemes of business and profit, and wrapped 
up and narrowed down in those schemes, they never think of the 
pleasant and beautiful capacities that God has given them. 
Affection, that delicate but most fragrant flower of Paradise, 
sits folded up within them, but never blossoms there. — Love 
and charity, twin angels of ineffable grace, and favorites of the 
great Source of Glory, lock their arms around each other, and 
lie themselves to slumber, in those souls — slumber but wake 
not. 2 I pity such people. I pity them for that they enjoy 
no true pleasure; for that they are all gross, sensual, and low; 
for that they do so little honor to their Maker, and let such 
costly and glorious treasures lie undigged in the mine. 

I would have men cultivate their disposition for kindness to all 
around. I would have them foster and cherish the faculty 
of love. To be sure, it may not bring in a percentage like bank 
stock, or corporation scrip, or bonds and mortgages, but it is 
very valuable, and will pay many fold. It is a faculty given to 
every human soul, though in most it is dormant and used not. 
It prompts us to be affectionate and gentle to all men. It leads 
us to scorn the cold and heartless limits of custom, but moves our 
souls to swell up with pure and glowing love for persons or for 
communities. It makes us disdain to be hemmed in by the 
formal mummeries of fashion, but at the kiss of a sister or a 
brother, or when our arms clasp the form of a friend, or when 
our lips touch the cheek of a boy or girl whom we love, it proves 
to us that all pleasures of dollars and cents are dross to those of 
loving and being beloved. 

Ere I close this paper, I will add a sentence or two, lest I 

iQf. infra, I, p. 14. 2 Cf. post, p. 86, II, p. 71. 


be misunderstood. By "love" as I have used the term in the 
preceding essay, I do not mean the sickly sentimentality which 
is so favorite a theme with novelists and magazine writers. 
What I would inculcate is that healthy, cheerful feeling of kind- 
ness and good will, an affectionate tenderness, a warm-hearted- 
ness, the germs of which are plentifully sown by God in each 
human breast; and which contribute to form a state of feeling 
very different from the puerile, moping love, painted by such 
trashy writers as Byron and Bulwer, and their more trashy 
imitators. 1 

From the Desk of a Schoolmaster 

We had all made up our minds to take a jaunt in the South 
Bay; and accordingly at the appointed morning, about sunrise, 
might have been seen wending their way toward the place 
of rendezvous, the various members of our party. The wise 

i Whitman's supposition that only sexual affection was in danger of becoming sickly 
in its sentimentality is, in the light of the present sketch, not to mention many another, 
rather naive. It was natural enough, however, to the elevated and exacting idealism 
of a poet's adolescence. He seems never to have cared much for Bulwer (see post, pp. 
122, 157), but he quoted Byron freely while in New Orleans and found that there was a 
rebel in the fiery Englishman as well as a lady-killer (see postal, pp. 179, 203, 212, 218). 
In time he was to celebrate sex quite as much as Byron or Bulwer, though, for the most 
part, in a different way. Compare this early deliverance on romantic affection with the 
following passage from John Burroughs's "Walt Whitman, A Study" (pp. 194-195): 
"It is charged against Whitman that he does not celebrate love at all, and very justly. 
He has no purpose to celebrate the sentiment of love. ... Of that veiled prurient 
suggestion which readers so delight in — of 'bosoms mutinously fair,' and 'the soul- 
lingering loops of perfumed hair,' as one of our latest poets puts it — there is no hint in his 
volume. He would have fallen from grace the moment he attempted such a thing. 
. . . From Whitman's point of view, it would have been positively immoral for him 
either to have vied with the lascivious poets in painting it as the forbidden, or with the 
sentimental poets in depicting it as a charm. . . . Whitman is seldom or never the 
poet of a sentiment, at least of the domestic and social sentiments. . . . The cosmic 
takes the place of the idyllic; the begetter, the Adamic man, takes the place of the lover; 
patriotism takes the place of family affection; charity takes the place of piety; love of 
kind is more than love of neighbour; the poet and the artist are swallowed up in the seer 
and the prophet." This is a better statement of the fact than Whitman himself ever 
achieved in prose; but it remains to inquire whether there were a psychical or a physio- 
logical necessity in the poet's equipment such as to compel him to omit from the ex- 
pression of the complete life of an "average man" elements which the average man 
hitherto has felt to be both beautiful and essential. (See I, pp. xlix-1, 112, note 2, 
II, pp. 94-97.) The'present sketch, while indicating his capacity for affection, betrays 
also, I think, the bifurcation of his sexual nature which was to give us, in the same 
volume, "Children of Adam" and "Calamus." 

'From the Long Is/and Farmer (Jamaica), July 20, 1 841. 


Bromero, with his clam-rake, and narrow-brimmed straw hat; 
Sefior Cabinet, with sedate face, and an enormous basket, con- 
taining a towel, fishing tackle, and incalculable quantities of 
provisions; Captain Sears, with his usual pleasant look; one of 
the Smith family with a never-failing fund of good humor; 
Kirbus, with his gun, breathing destruction to snipe and sea- 
fowl generally; and other personages whose number will prevent 
their being immortalized in this veracious history. 

Having first stowed our persons away in the wagons provided 
for that purpose, we started for the shore, fifteen precious 
souls in all; not forgetting to place in safe situations various 
baskets, kettles, jugs, bottles, and nondescript vessels, of whose 
contents we knew not as yet. We hoisted the American flag on a 
clam-rake handle, and elevated it in the air, very much to our 
own pleasure and the edification no doubt of all patriotic be- 
holders. Thus riding along it was discovered by an inquisitive 
member of our party that one of us, a married man, had come 
from home without his breakfast; whereupon an inquiry was 
instituted that resulted in bringing out the astounding fact that 
every married man in the company was in the like predicament. 
An evil-disposed character among us was ungallant enough to 
say that the fact was a fair commentary on matrimonial com- 

When we arrived at the point of embarkation, we found a 
tight clean boat, all ready for us, with Sailor Bight to superin- 
tend the navigation of the same. Having perfectly ensconced 
ourselves therein, by no means forgetting the baskets, jugs, 
&c, afore-mentioned, we boldly put forth into the stream and 
committed our lives to the mercy of the wind and waves. We 
reached the mouth of the creek with no adventures of any im- 
portance, except that Kirbus came very near getting a wild duck 
who was seen foraging on the waves not far from us; it would 
have been very easy to have got him — if Kirbus had shot him. 
I had liked to have forgot mentioning that Sefior Cabinet got 
the tail of his black coat quite wet by dragging it in the salt 
water, as he was seated on the gunwale of the boat. 

We had brought a musical instrument with us, and accord- 
ingly in due time we proceeded to give some very scientific speci- 
mens of the concord of sweet sounds. 1 The popular melodies of 
"Auld Lang Syne" and "Home, Sweet Home," were sung with 
great taste and effect. Thus the time passed away very pleas- 
Si/ "The Merchant of Venice," V, I, 82. - 


antly until we arrived at the beach; when some of us dashing 
boldly through the water to dry land — and the more effeminate 
being carried thither on the back of Sailor Bight — we started 
forth to visit the other side, whereon the surf comes tumbling, 
like lots of little white pigs playing upon clean white straw. 
Before we went thither, I must not forget to record, we were 
entertained with some highly exquisite specimens of Shakes- 
pearian eloquence by one of our company, formerly a member of 
the " Spouting Club " and, therefore entitled to be called a whaler. 

Having arrived at the surf, a portion of our party indulged 
themselves in the luxury of a bath therein. The rest returned to 
the boat, and forthwith each, arming himself with a clam-rake, 
did valorously set to work a-scratching up the sand at no small 
rate. After a while, the individual before spoken of as belong- 
ing to the Smith family, not feeling contented with his luck 
where he was, did, in company with another discontented per- 
sonage, betake himself off in the little skiff which had accom- 
panied our little vessel. He rowed most manfully, for half a 
mile, to a place where he thought he could better himself. By 
dint of pulling and hauling there nearly an hour, he managed to 
catch one clam, and then was content to return from whence he 
came. Thus was exemplified in the fortunes of this Smith in- 
dividual, the truth of the old maxim: "Let well enough alone." 

But my limits will not allow me to expatiate upon the events 
of this interesting voyage. I shall therefore not say a word about 
the astonishing appetite of Senor Cabinet; or the fun we had in 
Bromero's stories; or how a hat belonging to one of our chaps 
blew off into the wide waters and was recovered again by the 
Smith individual, but with the loss of a sort of a short-necked pipe, 
which had for many days before been safely kept therein. Nor 
shall I tell how we cut up divers clams into small bits, and thrust 
the said bits upon fish-hooks, and let down the said hooks by long 
lines into the water, and then sat patiently holding the lines, in 
the vain hope of nabbing some stray members of the finny tribe. 

Passing over all these, and other like important matters, I 
shall wind up this most accurate account by saying that we re- 
turned home perfectly safe in body, sound in limb, much re- 
freshed in soul, and in perfect good humor and satisfaction 
one with another. 

P.S. — I came very near forgetting to say, that some of us 
had our faces highly improved in color, and that Kirbus, and 
others of the married men, after we came ashore, bought 


several shillings' worth of eels and clams, probably in order to 
ward off the danger that would inevitably have followed their 
return empty-handed. 


After touching upon various points of democratic doctrine 
and policy, Mr. Whitman concluded as follows: Meetings 
have been held by our people in various sections, to nominate 
a candidate for the next presidency. My fellow citizens: let 
this be an afterthought. I beseech you to entertain a noble 
and more elevated idea of our aim and struggles as a party than 
to suppose that we are striving [to raise] this or that man to 
power. We are battling for great principles — for mighty and 
glorious truths. I would scorn to exert even my humble 
efforts for the best democratic candidate that ever was nomi- 
nated, in himself alone. It is our creed — our doctrine, not a man 
or set of men, that we seek to build up. Let us attend then, 
in the meantime, to measures, policy and doctrine, and leave to 
future consideration the selection of the agent to carry our plans 
into effect. 2 My firm conviction is that the next democratic 
candidate, whoever he may be, will be carried into power on the 
wings of a mighty re-action. The guardian spirit, the good 
genius who has attended us ever since the days of Jefferson, 
has not now forsaken us. I can almost fancy myself able to 
pierce the darkness of the future and behold her looking down 
upon us with those benignant smiles she wore in 1828, '32, and 
'36* Again will she hover over us, amid the smoke and din of 
battle, and leading us to our wonted victory, through "the 
sober second thought of the people. " 4 

!From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 6, 1847, where it is quoted from the New Era 
of July 30, 1841, to refute the charge made by the Brooklyn Advertizer, that in the 
summer of 1 841 Whitman had been a Whig. (See "The Gathering of the Forces," II, 

PP- 3-7-) 

The New Era estimated that 15,000 persons had attended the meeting; the Evening 
Post put it at 8,000 to 12,000. There were several speakers. 

1 Cf. post, I, p. 260. 

•This prophecy was fulfilled in the election three years later, in which Polk, who in 
1840 had received but a single vote in the electoral college, defeated Henry Clay by a 
vote of 170-105. 

*"I consider biennial elections as a security that the sober second thought of the people 
shall be law." — Fisher Ames: "On Biennial Elections," 1788. (Bartlett's "Familiar 
Quotations," 10th edition, p. 288.) The phrase was particularly common in the 1840*3. 



Almost incredible as it may seem, there is more truth than 
fiction in the following story. Whatever of the latter element 
may have been added, it is for the purpose of throwing that 
disguise around the real facts of the former which is due to the 
feelings of a respectable family. The principal parties alluded 
to have left the stage of life many years since; but I am well 
aware there are not a few yet alive who, should they, as is very 
probable, read this narration, will have their memories carried 
back to scenes and persons of much more substantial existence 
than the mere creation of an author's fancy. I have given it the 
form of a confession in the first person, partly for the sake of 
convenience, partly of simplicity, but chiefly because such was 
the form in which the main incidents were a long time ago re- 
peated to me by my own informant. It is a strange story — the 
true solution of which will probably be found in the supposition 
of a certain degree of unsoundness of mind, on the one part, 
manifesting itself in the morbid and unnatural paternal anti- 
pathy; and of its reproduction on the other, by the well known 
though mysterious law of hereditary transmission. W. W. 

My appointed number of years has now almost sped. Before 
I sink to that repose in the bosom of the great common mother, 
which I have so long and earnestly coveted, I will disclose the 
story of a life which one fearful event has made, through all its 
later stages, a continued stretch of wretchedness and remorse. 
There may possibly be some parents to whom it may serve a not 
useless lesson. 

^rom the Democratic Review, December, 1 841, Vol. IX, pp. 560-568. 

This story, no less than such fanciful ones as "The Angel of Tears" (post, I, pp. 83-86), 
and "Eris; A Spirit Record" (post, I, pp. 86-89), would seem to show that Whitman had 
come under the influence of Poe, for whose Broadway Journal he later contributed a brief 
sketch on American music, post, I, pp. 104-106. However, instead of being the creation 
of a morbid imagination, the present story may have been told to the author in the man- 
ner stated, for he seldom claims complete originality for his plots (cf. "Complete 
Prose," p. 196). If so, it argues his ability in early youth to inspire a high degree of 
confidence. Whatever the origin of the plot, Whitman's interest in it must have been 
stimulated by the fact that two of his own brothers were subnormal mentally. One, 
Edward, was at this time a six-year-old imbecile, while his brother Jesse, a year or two 
older than Walt, was to die in the King's County Lunatic Asylum in 1870. It is not 
clear, however, that the insanity of the elder brother was congenital. There is a letter 
in the Bucke collection written by Jefferson Whitman to Walt attributing Jesse's men- 
tal disorder to his own follies. 


I was born, and have always lived, in one of the largest of our 
American cities. The circumstances of my family were easy; 
I received a good education, was intended by my father for 
mercantile business, and upon attaining the proper age, ob- 
tained from him a small but sufficient capital; and in the course 
of a few years from thus starting, found myself sailing smoothly 
on the tide of fortune. I married; and, possessed of independ- 
ence and domestic comfort, my life was a happy one indeed. 
Time passed on; we had several children; when about twenty 
years after our marriage my wife died. It was a grievous blow 
to me, for I loved her well; and the more so of late, because that 
a little while before, at short intervals, I had lost both my 

Finding myself now at that period of life when ease and 
retirement are peculiarly soothing, I purchased an elegant house 
in a fashionable part of the city; where, surrounding myself and 
my family with every resource that abundance and luxury can 
afford for happiness, I settled myself for life — a life which seemed 
to promise every prospect of a long enjoyment. I had my 
sons and daughters around me; and, objecting to the boarding- 
school system, I had their education conducted under my own 
roof, by a private tutor who resided with us. He was a mild, 
gentlemanly man, with nothing remarkable about his personal 
appearance, unless his eyes might be called so. They were gray 
— large, deep, 'and having a softly beautiful expression that 
I have never seen in any others; and which, while they at 
times produced an extraordinary influence upon me, and yet 
dwell so vividly in my memory, no words that I can use could 
exactly describe. The name of the tutor was Alban. 

Of my children, only two were old enough to be considered 
anything more than boys and girls. The eldest was my favorite. 
In countenance he was like the mother, whose first-born he was; 
and when she died, the mantle of my affections seemed trans- 
ferred to him, with a sadly undue and unjust degree of preference 
over the rest. My second son, Luke, was bold, eccentric, and 
high-tempered. Strange as it may seem, notwithstanding a 
decided personal resemblance to myself, he never had his 
father's love. Indeed, it was only by a strong effort that 
I restrained and concealed a positive aversion. Occasions 
seemed continually to arise wherein the youth felt disposed to 
thwart me, and make himself disagreeable to me. Every time 
I saw him, I was conscious of something evil in his conduct or 


disposition. I have since thought that a great deal of all this 
existed only in my own imagination, warped and darkened as it 
was, and disposed to look upon him with an "evil eye." Be 
that as it may, I was several times made very angry by what I 
felt sure were intended to be wilful violations of my rule, and 
contemptuous taunts toward me for that partiality to his 
brother which I could not deny. In the course of time, I grew 
to regard the heedless boy with a feeling almost amounting — 
I shudder to make the confession — to hatred. Perhaps, for he 
was very cunning, he saw it, and, conscious that he was wronged, 
took the only method of revenge that was in his power. 

I have said that he was eccentric. The term is hardly strong 
enough to mark what actually was the case with him. He 
occasionally had spells which approached very nearly to com- 
plete derangement. My family physician spoke learnedly of reg- 
imen, and drugs, and courses of treatment which, if carefully 
persevered in, might remove the peculiarity. He said, too, 
that cases of that kind were dangerous, frequently terminating 
in confirmed insanity. But I laughed at him, and told him his 
fears were idle. Had it been my favorite son instead of Luke, 
I do not think I would have passed by the matter so contentedly. 

Matters stood as I have described them for several years. 
Alban, the tutor, continued with us; as fast as one [child] grew 
up, so as to be beyond the need of his instructions, another ap- 
peared in the vacant place. The whole family loved him dearly, 
and I have no doubt he repaid their affection, for he was a 
gentle-hearted creature, and easily won. Luke and he seemed 
great friends. I blush now as I acknowledge that this was the 
only thing by which Alban excited my displeasure. 

I shall pass over many circumstances that occurred in my fam- 
ily, having no special relation to the event which, in the present 
narrative, I have chiefly in view. One of my favorite amuse- 
ments was afforded by the theatre. I kept a box of my own, 
and frequently attended, often giving my family permission also 
to be present. Luke I seldom allowed to go. The excuse that 
I assigned to myself and to others was, that he was of excitable 
temperament, and the acting would be injurious to his brain. I 
fear the privilege was withheld quite as much from vindictive- 
ness toward him, and dislike of his presence on my own part. 
So Luke himself evidently thought and felt. On a certain 
evening — (were it last night, my recollection of it all could not 
be more distinct) — a favorite performer was to appear in a new 


piece; and it so happened that every one of us had arranged to 
attend — every one but Luke. He besought me earnestly that 
he might go with the rest — reminded me how rarely such favors 
were granted him — and even persuaded Alban to speak to me on 
the subject. 

"Your son," said the tutor, "seems so anxious to partake of 
this pleasure, and has set his mind so fully upon it, that I really 
fear, sir, your refusal would excite him more than the sight of 
the play." 

"I have adopted a rule," said I, "and once swerving from it 
makes no rule at all." 

"Mr. Bervance will excuse me," he still continued, "if I yet 
persevere in asking that you will allow Luke this indulgence, 
at least for this one evening. I am anxious and disturbed about 
the boy — and should even consider it as a great personal favor 
to myself." 

"No, sir," I answered, abruptly, "it is useless to continue 
this conversation. The young man cannot go, either from 
considerations of his pleasure or yours." 

Alban made no reply; he colored, bowed slightly, and I 
felt his eye fixed upon me with an expression I did not at all 
like, though I could not analyze it. I was conscious, however, 
that I had said too much; and if the tutor had not at that mo- 
ment left the room, I am sure I should have apologized for my 

We all went to the theatre. The curtain had hardly risen, 
when my attention was attracted by some one in the tier above, 
and right off against my box, coming noisily in, talking loudly, 
and stumbling along, apparently on purpose to draw the eyes 
of the spectators. As he threw himself into the front seat, and 
the glare of the lamps fell upon his face, I could hardly believe 
my eyes when I saw it was Luke. A second and a third ob- 
servation were necessary to convince me. There he sat, in- 
deed. He looked over to where I was seated, and while my 
sight was riveted upon him in unbounded astonishment, he 
deliberately rose — raised his hand to his head — lifted his hat, 
and bowed low and long — a cool, sarcastic smile playing on his 
features all the time — and finally breaking into an actual laugh, 
which even reached my ears. Nay — will it be believed! — the 
foolish youth had even the effrontery to bring down one of the 
wretched outcasts who are met with there, and seat himself 
full in our view — he laughing and talking with his companion 


so much to the annoyance of the house that a police officer was 
actually obliged to interfere! I felt as [if] I should burst 
with mortification and anger. 

At the conclusion of the tragedy we went home. Reader, 
I cannot dwell minutely on what followed. At a late hour my 
rebellious boy returned. Seemingly bent upon irritating me to 
the utmost, he came with perfect nonchalance into the room 
where I was seated. The remainder of that night is like a hate- 
ful dream in my memory, distinct and terrible, though shadowy. 
I recollect the sharp, cutting, but perfectly calm rejoinders he 
made to all my passionate invectives against his conduct. They 
worked me up to a phrensy, and he smiled all the more calmly 
the while. Half maddened by my rage, I seized him by the 
collar, and shook him. My pen almost refuses to add — but 
justice to myself demands it — the Son felled the Father to the 
earth with a blow! Some blood even flowed from a slight 
wound caused by striking my head, as I fell against a projecting 
corner of furniture — and the hair that it matted together was 

What busy devil was it that stepped noiselessly round the bed, 
to which I immediately retired, and kept whispering in my ears 
all that endless night? Sleep forsook me. Thoughts of a deep 
revenge — a fearful redress — but it seemed to me hardly more 
fearful than the crime — worked within my brain. Then I 
turned, and tried to rest, but vainly. Some spirit from the 
abodes of ruin held up the provocation and the punishment con- 
tinually before my mind's eye. The wretched youth had his 
strange fits: those fits were so thinly divided from insanity that 
who should undertake to define the difference? And for in- 
sanity was there not a prison provided, with means and appli- 
ances, confinement, and, if need be, chains and scourges? For 
a few months it would be nothing more than wholesome that an 
unnatural child, a brutal assaulter of his parent, should taste the 
discipline of such a place. Before my eyes closed, my mind had 
resolved on the scheme — a scheme so cruel that, as I think of it 
now, my senses are lost in wonder that any one less than a fiend 
could have resolved to undertake it. 

The destinies of evil favored me. The very next morning 
Luke had one of his strange turns, brought on, undoubtedly, by 
the whirl and agitation of the previous day and night. With the 
smooth look and quiet tread with which I doubt not Judas 
looked and trod, I went into his room and enjoined the attend- 


ants to be very careful of him. I found him more violently 
affected than at any former period. He did not know me; I felt 
glad that it was so, for my soul shrank at its own intentions, and 
I could not have met his conscious eye. At the close of the 
day, I sent for a physician; not him who generally attended my 
family, but one of those obsequious gentlemen who bend and 
are pliant like the divining rod, that is said to be attracted by 
money. I sent, too, for some of the officers of the lunatic asy- 
lum. Two long hours we were in conversation. I was sorry, I 
told them, very sorry; it was a dreadful grief to me; the gentle- 
men could not but sympathize in my distress; but I felt myself 
called upon to yield my private feelings. I felt it best for my 
unhappy son to be, for a time at least, removed to the customary 
place for those laboring under his miserable disease. I will 
not say what other measures I took — what tears I shed. Oh, 
to what a depth may that man be sunk who once gives bad 
passions their swing! The next day, Luke was taken from my 
dwelling to the asylum, and confined in what was more like a 
dungeon than a room for one used to all the luxurious comforts 
of life. 

Days rolled on. I do not think any one suspected aught of 
what really was the case. Evident as it had been that Luke 
was not a favorite of mine, no person ever thought it pos- 
sible that a father could place his son in a mad-house from 
motives of any other description than a desire to have him 
cured. The children were very much hurt at their brother's 
unfortunate situation. Alban said nothing; but I knew that 
he sorrowed in secret. He frequently sought, sometimes with 
success, to obtain entrance to Luke; and after a while began to 
bring me favorable reports of the young man's recovery. One 
day, about three weeks after the event at the theatre, the tutor 
came to me with great satisfaction on his countenance. He 
had just returned from Luke, who was now as sane as ever. 
Alban said he could hardly get away from the young man, who 
conjured him to remain, for solitude there was a world of terror 
and agony. Luke had besought him, with tears streaming 
down his cheeks, to ask me to let him be taken from that place. 
A few days longer residence there, he said, a conscious witness 
of its horrors, and he should indeed be its fit inmate for ever. 

The next morning I sent private instructions to the asylum, 
to admit no person in Luke's apartment without an order from 
me. Alban was naturally very much surprised, as day after 


day elapsed and I took no measures to have my son brought 
home. Perhaps, at last, he began to suspect the truth; for in 
one of the interviews we had on the subject those mild and 
beautiful eyes of his caused mine to sink before them, and he 
expressed a determination, dictated as he said by an imperious 
duty, in case I did not see fit to liberate the youth, to take some 
decided steps himself. I talked as smoothly and as sorrow- 
fully as possible — but it was useless. 

"My young friend, I am sure," said he, "has received all the 
benefits he can possibly derive from the institution, and I do 
not hesitate to say, any longer continuance there may be fol- 
lowed by dangerous — even fatal — consequences. I cannot but 
think," and the steadfast look of that gray eye settled- £/ me, 
as if it would pierce my inmost soul, "that Mr. Bervance desires 
to see his unlucky child away from so fearful an abode; and I 
have no doubt that I shall have his approval in any proper 
and necessary measures for that purpose." 

I cursed him in my heart, but I felt that I had to submit. 
So I told him that if in two days more Luke did not have any 
relapse, I would then consider it safe to allow him to be brought 

The swift time flew and brought the evening of the next day. 
I was alone in the house, all the family having gone to a con- 
cert, which I declined attending, for music was not then suited 
to my mood. The young people stayed later than I had ex- 
pected; I walked the floor till I was tired, and then sat down 
on a chair. It was a parlor at the back of the house, with long, 
low windows opening into the garden. There and then, in the 
silence of the place, I thought for the first time of the full extent 
of the guilt I had lately been committing. It pressed upon me, 
and I could not hide from my eyes its dread enormity. But it 
became too painful, and I rose, all melted with agonized yet 
tender emotions, and determined to love my injured boy from 
that hour as Father should love Son. In the act of rising, my 
eyes were involuntarily cast toward a large mirror, on the 
chimney-piece. Was it a reflection of my own conscience, or a 
horrid reality? My blood curdled as I saw there an image of 
the form of my son — my cruelly treated Luke — but oh, how 
ghastly, how deathly a picture! I turned, and there was the 
original of the semblance. Just inside one of the windows stood 
the form, the pallid, unwashed, tangly-haired, rag-covered 
form, of Luke Bervance. And that look of his — there was no 


deception there — it was the vacant, glaring, wild look of a 

"Ho, ho!" 

As I listened, I could hardly support myself, for uncontroll- 
able horror. 

"My son, do you not know me? I am your father," I 

"You are Flint Serpent. Do you know me, Flint? A little 
owl screeched in my ear, as I came through the garden, and 
said you would be glad to see me, and then laughed a hooting 
laugh. Speak low," he continued in a whisper: "big eyes and 
bony hands are out there, and they would take me back again. 
But you will strike at them, Flint, and scatter them, will you 
not? Sting them with poison; and when they try to seize me 
knock them down with your heart, will you not?" 

"Oh, Christ! what a sight is this!" burst from me, as I sank 
back into the chair from which I had risen, faint with agony. 
The lunatic started as I spoke, and probably something like a 
recollection lighted up his brain for a moment. He cast a fierce 
glance at me. 

"Do you like it?" he said, with a grim smile; "it is of your own 
doing. You placed me in a mad house. I was not mad; but 
when I woke, and breathed that air, and heard the sounds, and 
saw what is to be seen there — Oh, now I am mad ! Curse you ! 
it is your work. Curse you! Curse you!" 

I clapped my hands to my ears, to keep out the appalling 
sounds that seemed to freeze my very blood. When I took 
them away, I heard the noise of the street door opening, and my 
children's voices sounding loud and happily. Their maniac 
brother heard them also. He sprang to the window. 

"Hark!" he said; "they are after me, Flint. Keep them 
back. Rather than go there again, I would jump into a raging 
furnace of fire!" He glided swiftly into the garden, and I 
heard his voice in the distance. I did not move, for every nerve 
seemed paralyzed. 

"Keep them back, Flint! It is all your work! Curse you!" 

When my family came into the apartment, they found me in 
a deep swound, which I fully recovered from only at the end of 
many minutes. 

My incoherent story, the night, and the strangeness of the 
whole affair, prevented any pursuit that evening, though Alban 
would have started on one if he had had any assistance or 


clue. The next morning, the officers of the asylum came in 
search of the runaway. He had contrived a most cunning plan 
of escape, and his departure was not found out till daylight. 

My story is nearly ended. We never saw or heard of the 
hapless Luke more. Search was extensively made, and kept 
up for a long time; but no tidings were elicited of his fate. 
Alban was the most persevering of those who continued the task, 
even when it became hopeless. He inserted advertisements in 
the newspapers, sent emissaries all over the country, had hand- 
bills widely distributed, offering a large reward; but all to no 
purpose. The doom, whatever it was, of the wretched young 
man is shrouded in a mantle of uncertainty as black as a veil of 
the outer darkness in which his form had disappeared on that 
last memorable night; and in all likelihood it will now never be 
known to mortals. 

A great many years have gone by since these events. To 
the eyes of men, my life and feelings have seemed in no respect 
different from those of thousands of others. I have mixed with 
company — laughed and talked — eaten and drunk; and, now 
that the allotted term is closing, must prepare to lay myself in 
the grave. I say I have lived many years since then, and have 
laughed and talked. Let no one suppose, however, that time 
has banished the phantoms of my busy thoughts and allowed 
me to be happy. Down in the inward chamber of my soul 
there has been a mirror — large, and very bright. It has pic- 
tured, for the last thirty years, a shape, wild and haggard, and 
with tangly hair — the shape of my maniac son. Often, in the 
midst of society, in the public street, at my own table, and in 
the silent watches of the night, that picture stands out in 
glaring brightness; and, without a tongue, tells me that it is 
all my work, and repeats that terrible cursing which, the last 
time the tyrant and victim stood face to face together, rang 
from the lips of the Son, and fell like a knell of death on the 
ear of the Father. 


A pleasant, fair-sized country village — a village embosomed 
in trees, with old churches, one tavern, kept by a respectable 

*From the Democratic Review, January, 1842, Vol. X, pp. 62-68. Reprinted in 
James J. Brenton's "Voices from the Press," 1850, and, with illustrations, in a Phila- 
delphia paper, probably in 1892. 


widow, long, single-storied farm-houses, their roofs mossy, and 
their chimneys smoke-blacked — a village with much grass, and 
shrubbery, and no mortar nor bricks, nor pavements, nor gas — 
no newness: that is the place for him who wishes life in its flavor 
and its bloom. Until of late, my residence has been in such a 

Men of cities! what is there in all your boast of pleasure — 
your fashions, parties, balls, and theatres — compared to the 
simplest of the delights we country folk enjoy? 1 Our pure air, 
making the blood swell and leap with buoyant health; our 
labor and our exercise; our freedom from the sickly vices that 
taint the town; our not being racked with notes due, or the 
fluctuations of prices, or the breaking of banks; our manners of 
sociality, expanding the heart and reacting with a wholesome 
effect on the body; — can anything which citizens possess balance 

One Saturday, after paying a few days' visit at New York, 
I returned to my quarters in the country inn. The day was hot, 
and my journey a disagreeable one. I had been forced to stir 
myself beyond comfort, and dispatch my affairs quickly, for fear 
of being left by the cars. As it was, I arrived panting and cov- 
ered with sweat, just as they were about to start. Then for 
many miles I had to bear the annoyance of the steam-engine 
smoke; and it seemed to me that the vehicles kept swaying to 
and fro on the track, with a more than usual motion, on purpose 
to distress my jaded limbs. Out of humor with myself and 
everything around me when I came to my travel's end, I refused 
to partake of the comfortable supper which my landlady had 
prepared for me; and rejoining to the good woman's look of 
wonder at such an unwonted event, and her kind inquiries 
about my health, with a sullen silence, I took my lamp, and 
went my way to my room. Tired and head-throbbing, in less 
than half a score of minutes after I threw myself on my bed I 
was steeped in the soundest slumber. 

When I awoke, every vein and nerve felt fresh and free. 
Soreness and irritation had been swept away, as it were, with 
the curtains of night; and the accustomed tone had returned 
again. I arose and threw open my window. Delicious! It 
was a calm, bright Sabbath morning in May. The dew-drops 

1 This phrasing, taken with the sentiment expressed in "Young Grimes," infra,pp. 3-4, 
may indicate that the sketch was originally written while Whitman was living on the 


glittered on the grass; the fragrance of the apple-blossoms which 
covered the trees floated up to me; and the notes of a hundred 
birds discoursed music to my ear. By the rays just shooting up 
in the eastern verge, I knew that the sun would be risen in a 
moment. I hastily dressed myself, performed my ablutions, 
and sallied forth to take a morning walk. 

Sweet, yet sleepy scene ! No one seemed stirring. The placid 
influence of the day was even now spread around, quieting 
everything, and hallowing everything. I sauntered slowly 
onward, with my hands folded behind me. I passed round the 
edge of the hill, on the rising elevation and top of which was a 
burial-ground. On my left, through an opening in the trees, I 
could see at some distance the ripples of our beautiful bay; on my 
right, was the large and ancient field for the dead. I stopped 
and leaned my back against the fence, with my face turned 
toward the white marble stones a few rods before me. All I 
saw was far from new to me; and yet I pondered upon it. The 
entrance to that place of tombs was a kind of arch — a rough- 
hewn but no doubt hardy piece of architecture that had stood, 
winter and summer, over the gate there, for many, many years. 
O fearful arch! if there were for thee a voice to utter what has 
passed beneath and near thee; if the secrets of the earthy dwell- 
ing that to thee are known could be by thee disclosed — whose 
ear might listen to the appalling story and its possessor not go 
mad with terror! 

Thus thought I; and, strangely enough, such imagining 
marred not in the least the sunny brightness which spread alike 
over my mind and over the landscape. Involuntarily, as I 
mused, my look was cast to the top of the hill. I saw a figure 
moving. Could someone beside myself be out so early, and 
among the tombs? What creature odd enough in fancy to find 
pleasure there, and at such a time? Continuing my gaze, I saw 
that the figure was a woman. She seemed to move with a slow 
and feeble step, passing and repassing constantly between two 
and the same graves, which were within half a rod of each other. 
She would bend down and appear to busy herself a few moments 
with the one; then she would rise and go to the second, and bend 
there and employ herself as at the first. Then to the former one, 
and then to the second again. Occasionally the figure would 
pause a moment, and stand back a little, and look steadfastly 
down upon the graves, as if to see whether her work were done 
well. Thrice I saw her walk with a tottering gait, and stand 


midway between the two, and look alternately at each. Then 
she would go to one and arrange something, and come back to 
the midway place, and gaze first on the right and then on the 
left, as before. The figure evidently had some trouble in suiting 
things to her mind. Where I stood, I could hear no noise of 
her footfalls; nor could I see accurately enough to tell what she 
was doing. Had a superstitious man beheld the spectacle, he 
would possibly have thought that some spirit of the dead, 
allowed the night before to burst its cerements and wander 
forth in the darkness, had been belated in returning, and was 
now perplexed to find its coffin-house again. 

Curious to know what was the woman's employment, I undid 
the simple fastenings of the gate, and walked over the rank 
wet grass toward her. As I came near, I recognized her for an 
old, a very old inmate of the poor-house, named Delaree. 
Stopping a moment, while I was yet several yards from her and 
before she saw me, I tried to call to recollection certain particu- 
lars of her history which I had heard a great while past. She 
was a native of one of the West India islands, and, before I who 
gazed at her was born, had with her husband come hither, to 
settle and gain a livelihood. They were poor; most miserably 
poor. Country people, I have noticed, seldom like foreigners. 
So this man and his wife, in all probability, met much to dis- 
courage them. They kept up their spirits, however, until at 
last their fortunes became desperate. Famine and want laid 
iron fingers upon them. They had no acquaintance; and to 
beg they were ashamed. 1 Both were taken ill; then the charity 
that had been so slack came to their destitute abode, but came 
too late. Delaree died, the victim of poverty. The woman 
recovered after a while; for but many months was quite an 
invalid, and was sent to the alms-house, where she had ever 
since remained. 

This was the story of the aged creature before me, aged with 
the weight of seventy winters. I walked up to her. By her 
feet stood a large rude basket, in which I beheld leaves and 
buds. The two graves which I had seen her passing between so 
often were covered with flowers — the earliest but sweetest 
flowers of the season. They were fresh, and wet, and very frag- 
rant — those delicate soul-orTerings. And this, then, was her 
employment. Strange! Flowers, frail and passing, grasped 

x Cj. "Luke," xvi: 3. 


by the hand of age, and scattered upon a tomb ! White hairs, 
and pale blossoms, and stone tablets of Death! 

"Good morning, mistress," said I, quietly. 

The withered female turned her eyes to mine, and acknowl- 
edged my greeting in the same spirit wherewith it was given. 

"May I ask whose graves they are that you remember so 

She looked up again, probably catching from my manner 
that I spoke in no spirit of rude inquisitiveness, and answered, 

"My husband's." 

A manifestation of a fanciful taste, thought I, this tomb- 
ornamenting, which she probably brought with her from 
abroad. Of course, but one of the graves could be her hus- 
band's; and one, likely, was that of a child, who had died and 
been laid away by its father. 

"Who else?" I asked. 

"My husband's," replied the aged widow. 

Poor creature! her faculties were becoming dim. No doubt 
her sorrows and her length of life had worn both mind and body 
nearly to the parting. 

"Yes, I know," continued I, mildly; "but there are two 
graves. One is your husband's, and the other is " 

I paused for her to fill the blank. 

She looked at me a minute, as if in wonder at my perverse- 
ness, and then answered as before, 

"My husband's. None but my Gilbert's." 

"And is Gilbert buried in both?" said I. 

She appeared as if going to answer, but stopped again and 
did not. Though my curiosity was now somewhat excited, I 
forebore to question her further, feeling that it might be to 
her a painful subject. I was wrong, however. She had been 
rather agitated at my intrusion, and her powers flickered for a 
moment. They were soon steady again; and, perhaps gratified 
with my interest in her affairs, she gave in a few brief sentences 
the solution of the mystery. When her husband's death oc- 
curred, she was herself confined to a sick bed, which she did not 
leave for a long while after he was buried. Still longer days 
passed before she had permission, or even strength, to go into 
the open air. When she did, her first efforts were essayed to 
reach Gilbert's grave. What a pang sunk to her heart when she 
found it could not be pointed out to her! With the careless in- 
difference which is shown to the corpses of outcasts, poor 


Delaree had been thrown into a hastily dug hole, without any 
one noting it, or remembering which it was. Subsequently, 
several other paupers were buried in the same spot, and the 
sexton could only show two graves to the disconsolate woman, 
and tell her that her husband's was positively one of the twain. 
During the latter stages of her recovery, she had looked forward 
to the consolation of coming to his tomb as to a shrine, and 
wiping her tears there; and it was bitter that such could not be. 
The miserable widow even attempted to obtain the consent of 
the proper functionaries that the graves might be opened, and 
her anxieties put at rest! When told that this could not be done, 
she determined in her soul that at least the remnant of her hopes 
and intentions should not be given up. Every Sunday morning, 
in the mild seasons, she went forth early, and gathered fresh 
flowers, and dressed both the graves. So she knew that the right 
one was cared for, even if another shared that care. And lest 
she should possibly bestow the most of this testimony of love 
on him whom she knew not, but whose spirit might be looking 
down invisibly in the air, and smiling upon her, she was ever 
careful to have each tomb adorned in exactly similar manner. 
In a strange land, and among a strange race, she said, it was 
like communion with her own people to visit that burial- 

"If I could only know which to bend over when my heart 
feels heavy," thus finished the sorrowing being as she rose to 
depart, " then it would be a happiness. But perhaps I am blind 
to my dearest mercies. God in his great wisdom may have sent 
that I should not know which grave was his, lest grief over it 
should become too common a luxury with me, and melt me 

I offered to accompany her, and support her feeble steps; 
but she preferred that it should not be so. With languid feet 
she moved on. I watched her pass through the gate and under 
the arch; I saw her turn, and in a little while she was hidden 
from my view. Then I carefully parted the flowers upon one 
of the graves, and sat down there, and leaned my face in my 
hands and thought. 

W 7 hat a wondrous thing is woman's love! Oh Thou whose 
most mighty attribute is the Incarnation of Love, I bless Thee 
that Thou didst make this fair disposition in the human heart, 
and didst root it there so deeply that it is stronger than all 
else, and can never be torn out! Here is this aged wayfarer, a 


woman of trials and griefs, decrepid, sore, and steeped in pov- 
erty; the most forlorn of her kind; and yet, through all the 
storm of misfortune, and the dark cloud of years settling upon 
her, the Memory of her Love hovers like a beautiful spirit amid 
the gloom, and never deserts her, but abides with her while 
life abides. Yes; this creature loved; this wrinkled, skinny, 
gray-haired crone had her heart to swell with passion, and her 
pulses to throb, and her eyes to sparkle. Now, nothing remains 
but a Loving Remembrance, coming as of old, and stepping in 
its accustomed path, not to perform its former object, or former 
duty — but from long habit. Nothing but that! — Ah! is not 
that a great deal? 

And the buried man — he was happy to have passed away as 
he did. The woman — she was the one to be pitied. Without 
doubt she wished many times that she were laid beside him. 
And not only she, thought I, as I cast my eyes on the solemn 
memorials around me; but at the same time there were thou- 
sands else on earth who panted for the Long Repose, as a tired 
child for the night. 1 The grave — the grave — what foolish man 
calls it a dreadful place? It is a kind friend, whose arms shall 
compass us round about, and while we lay our heads upon his 
bosom, no care, temptation, nor corroding passion shall have 
power to disturb us. Then the weary spirit shall no more be 
weary; the aching head and aching heart will be strangers to 
pain; and the soul that has fretted and sorrowed away its little 
life on earth will sorrow not any more. When the mind has 
been roaming abroad in the crowd, and returns sick and tired 
of hollow hearts, and of human deceit — let us think of the grave 
and of death, and they will seem like soft and pleasant music. 
Such thoughts then soothe and calm our pulses; they open a 
peaceful prospect before us. I do not dread the grave. There 
is many a time when I could lay down and pass my immortal 
part through the valley of the shadow as composedly as I quaff 
water after a tiresome walk. For what is there of terror in tak- 
ing our rest? What is there here below to draw us with such 
fondness? Life is the running of a race — a most weary race, 
sometimes. Shall we fear the goal, merely because it is shrouded 
in a cloud? 

I rose, and carefully replaced the parted flowers, and bent my 
steps homeward. 

If there be any sufficiently interested in the fate of the aged 

1 Cf. infra, p. II, and other juvenile verse of the "graveyard" type. 


woman, that they wish to know further about her, for those I 
will add that ere long her affection was transferred to a Region 
where it might receive the reward of its constancy and purity. 
Her last desire — and it was complied with — was that she 
should be placed midway between the two graves. 


Is it not your fortune, reader, occasionally, in your path 
through life, to meet with one whose custom it is to look alway 
upon the dark points of a picture — to seek out faults, and where 
they do not really exist, to fancy them — whose disposition is 
sour and whose soul seems anxious to condemn all that other 
people praise? A man of this description is to cheerfulness and 
soul-confidence what a cloud is to the sun. Malignant and 
envious, he would rob a patriot of his countrymen's love — a 
saint of his reverence — a glorious writer of his well-deserved 

The Washington Globe discourse th after the following manner: 

If to delineate the human character in its lowest stage of ignorance, 
vice and degradation, and give it the most unbounded scope in every 
species of wickedness and crime, is to be a Democratic writer, then 
most assuredly Mr. Dickens is emphatically one. He has exhibited 
human nature in its naked, ragged deformity, reeking with vice and 
pollution; as ignorant as wicked, and absolutely below the standard of 
the very beasts of the field. He has made his exhibitions of human 
character more disgusting and abhorrent, by a degree of brutal ignor- 
ance and stupendous depravity, which constitute, in their combination, 
a spectacle so absolutely and exclusively hateful, as to absorb all con- 
sideration of the means by which this miserable desecration of human- 
ity was produced, and all sympathy for the brutes who to us, as it were, 
misrepresent their fellow creatures. Incidentally, these spectacles may 
connect themselves in our minds, with the means by which this extrem- 
ity of vice and ignorance was produced, but the overwhelming feeling 
is that of disgust and abhorrence. There are physical diseases so re- 
volting to the senses as to convert pity into sickening disgust, and 
there is a degree of moral corruption and wickedness which annihilates 
all sympathy. 

iFrom Brother Jonathan, February 26, 1842. Dickens was at the time being feted in 
New York. 

The editor of the Brother Jonathan, in referring to this communication, declares that 
it "bears the initials of as true and honest a democrat as the editor of the Globe } or any 
of the correspondents of that paper." 


To call this the literature of Democracy is to make Democracy as 
brutal as this gentleman has been pleased to represent it in his native 
country. It may suit there, where it has perhaps its prototypes, so 
numerous as to constitute a class, but it does not actually belong to the 
United States, nor is it applicable to the state of society in this country. 
Such a school of literature can only aid the course and progress of vice 
among us, by placing before the already degraded, examples of new 
modes of wickedness, with which they were hitherto unacquainted, 
and degrees of degradation of which they never had any perception, until 
they became so conspicuous in the polite and fashionable literature 
of the day. The extraordinary cheapness with which these works have 
been got up among us, and the allurements they present in a series of 
embellishments with the grossness of the scenes they are intended to 
illustrate, have given them a general circulation among those classes 
most likely to overlook the latent imperceptible moral, if any such 
exists, and to concentrate their attention on those broad caricatures of 
wickedness, which are too often represented by the author in combina- 
tion with ludicrous circumstances, admirably calculated to make those 
who have no very distinct notions of right and wrong, consider the 
whole an excellent joke, worthy of all imitation. 

I cannot, for my part, comprehend how a writer can be fairly en- 
titled to the credit of being the champion of that class of mankind 
which he pictures in colors so revolting to our feelings and sympathies; 
nor by what process of induction this intimate association with this 
perpetual contemplation with all the varieties of extreme degradation 
coupled with a boundless latitude of crime, can be converted into a 
school of morals. If this is indeed the tendency of such contemplations 
and associations, let us send our children to bridewells and penitenti- 
aries for their education, and to the quarter sessions for lessons of 
morality. Indeed it seems to me that Mr. Dickens' moral writings 
are very much on a par with Le Boeuf 's great moral picture of Adam 
and Eve, in the moment of being tempted by the serpent. They were 
represented as large as life, perfectly naked, the female in the attitude 
of a lascivious courtesan, tempting a bashful youth; and if the artist 
had not fortunately bethought himself of calling it a great moral pic- 
ture, no decent female would have dared to visit its exhibition. At 
this rate, I should not be at all surprised at seeing some strenuous 
amateur writing a criticism to prove the displays of Fanny Elssleri a 
great moral spectacle. 

The above is evidently the offering of no unpracticed hand. 
I wish I could speak as favorably of the author's appreciation 
of merit, and of his candor and judgment. 

A "democratic writer," I take it, is one the tendency of whose 
pages is to destroy those old land-marks which pride and fashion 

-A German danseuse (i 8 10-1884). 


have set up, making impassable distinctions between the breth- 
ren of the Great Family 1 — to render in their deformity before 
us the tyranny of partial laws — to show us the practical work- 
ings of the thousand distortions engrafted by custom upon our 
notions of what justice is — to make us love our fellow-creatures, 
and own that although social distinctions place others far 
higher or far lower than we, yet are human beings alike, as links 
of the same chain; one whose lines are imbued, from preface to 
finis, with that philosophy which teaches to pull down the high 
and bring up the low. I consider Mr. Dickens to be a demo- 
cratic writer. 

The mere fact of a man's delineating human character in its 
lowest stages of degradation, and giving it unbounded scope in 
every species of wickedness, proves neither his "democracy" 
nor its opposite. If it be done in such a way as that a kind of 
charm is thrown all the time around the guilty personage de- 
scribed — in such a way that excuses and palliations for his 
vice are covertly conveyed, every now and then — such writings, 
most assuredly, would have no fair claim to rank among "the 
literature of democracy." But when these specimens of naked, 
ragged deformity, as ignorant as wicked, are drawn out before 
us, and surrounded with their fit accompaniments, filth and 
darkness, and the deepest discomfort — when crime is por- 
trayed, never so that by any possibility the reader can find the 
slightest temptation to go and do likewise — when we see how 
evil doing is followed by its sure and long and weary punish- 
ment — when our minds are led to the irresistible conclusion that 
iniquity is loathsome, and by the magic of the pen-painter have 
its pictures so stamped upon them that we ever after associate 
depraved actions with lowness and the very vulgarity of pollu- 
tion — in such case, I say, the delineations of life in its lowest as- 
pect, and even characterized by grossest ignorance and brutality, 
do not militate against their author's claim for admiration from 
all true democrats. And, then, the effect of the contrast which 
Mr. Dickens seems fond of forcing us to make between these 
wicked ones and the beings of purity and truth whom he also 
draws with a master hand ! How he brings these characters to- 
gether, and places them side by side, and makes them play 
into each other's hands, as it were, for the purpose of bringing 
out their distinctive traits! He not only teaches his readers to 
abhor vice, but he exhibits before them, for imitation, examples 

l Cf. infra, pp. 46-48. 


of the beauty of honesty — not as in the abstract style of the es- 
sayist, or the lofty dreams of the poet — but by examples that 
everyone can copy, examples in familiar life, that come home to 
us all. Who is not in love with truth when he follows, through 
trouble, poverty, and temptation, a little child that never 
swerves, but in its simplicity conducts itself as though there 
were no such thing as falsehood? What impropriety is there 
in the process of induction which calls that a school of morals 
where the pupil sees mapped out before him the parish boy's 
progress through sin and ignorance — resisting the tempter 
when yielding would have procured ease — steadily holding to 
the truth at all risks — living like an angel of light amid spirits 
of darkness — never giving up, though often his prospects seemed 
desperate — and being rewarded, at last, with prosperity? 

The writer in the Globe thinks that the spectacles of misery 
pictured in the Boz novels constitute a combination so exclu- 
sively hateful as to absorb all consideration of the means which 
produce them, and all sympathy for the performers themselves. 
Did not the writer in the Globe, when he read the graphically 
drawn and deeply colored picture of the life led by Oliver Twist 
and his mates in the poor house, and of all the transactions 
there, and of the conduct of those who had to do with the insti- 
tution — did he not have some reflections upon the evils of such 
a state of society as led to the existence of these things? When 
he read of Squeers and Do-the-boys hall, did he not entertain 
the most distant idea of how such a boarding-school system, 
if prevalent, might be rooted out, by thus showing it up? 

The critic in the Globe compares Mr. Dickens' portraitures 
to the exhibition of those physical diseases so revolting to the 
senses as to create nothing but horror and sickening disgust. I 
suppose that in order to please our critic, a writer must speak 
mincingly, and with much delicacy lest he should introduce a 
vigorous turn or idea, which would offend him for its grossness. 
I fear me he is too dainty. Such exquisite sensitiveness — such 
affectation of being overcome by the strength of description in 
the novelist — such refined horror at some fancied overstepping 
of the limits wherein an author should confine himself, if he 
aspires to please the polite taste — bespeak the literary fop much 
more than they mark a man really fit to measure the length and 
breadth of that genius he so maligns. Besides, Mr. Dickens 
makes a sparing use of these strong features. The criticism 
in the Globe seems imbued throughout with the notion that the 


Boz works tell of nothing but the horrible and the awful — of 
desperate crime, and sensual vice. Surely it is not so. Boz 
is not altogether a feeder upon Newgate Calendars, and Police 
Reports, and whatever else reflects from the mind of him who 
looks thereon a sombre and a sorrowful hue. Pickwick, 1 and 
the Wellers, 1 and the Fat Boy, 1 forbid! Dick Swiveller 2 and 
the Marchioness 2 — Kit, 2 and pony — Miggs 3 and Joe Willett, 3 
condemn the imputation. And thy sweet face, Kate Nickleby, 4 
and thy Christian nature, Cheeryble brothers 4 — and thou, poor 
Nell 2 — and thou, G. Varden 3 — repel the slander! 

The familiarity with low life wherein Mr. Dickens places his 
readers is a wholesome familiarity. For those moving in a kin- 
dred sphere it is wholesome, because it holds out to them con- 
tinually the spectacle of beings of their own grade, engaged 
either in worthy actions which are held up to emulation, and 
shown to be rewarded both in themselves and in their results — 
or engaged in avocations of guilt which in themselves and their 
results are fearful, and only to be thought of with shuddering. 
For the richer classes this familiarity is wholesome because they 
are taught to feel, in fancy, what poverty is, and what thou- 
sands of fellow-creatures, as good as they, toil on year after 
year, amid discouragements and evils, whose bare relation is 
enough to make the hearer heart-sick. The rich cannot taste 
the distresses of want from their own experience; it is some- 
thing if they are made to do so through the power of the pen. 

He cannot comprehend, this critic tells us, how a writer can 
be called the champion of that class of mankind which he pic- 
tures in colors so revolting. A good parent or teacher some- 
times has to lay before those whom he would reform the strong, 
naked, hideous truth. But Mr. Dickens never maligns the 
poor. He puts the searing iron to wickedness, whether among 
poor or rich; and yet when he describes the guily, poor and op- 
pressed man, we are always in some way reminded how much 
need there is that certain systems of law and habit which lead 
to this poverty and consequent crime should be remedied. 

I would say more, but my limits prevent me. I cannot, 

Characters in the "Pickwick Papers," 1836. 

2 Characters in "The Old Curiosity Shop," 1840-41. 

3 Characters in "Barnaby Rudge," 1841. 

4 Characters in "Nicholas Nickleby," 1839. 

It would appear from the above list that Whitman had devoured Dickens's novels 
as fast as they came from the press, for he alludes to all that had been published in 
1842, the date of "Boz and Democracy." 


however, close this paper without alluding once more, as in the 
beginning of the article, to those men who are always prone to 
carping and detraction. Mr. Dickens' charming manners, 
his modesty, his freedom from haughtiness, his lovable nature, 
his pleasant tenor of mind, as displayed in his personal conduct 
— might, it would seem, have saved him from those snappish 
and sour flings which some of the third-rate editorial fry are 
indulging in toward him. There are men among us with that 
unfortunate disposition — unfortunate as well for themselves 
as for those who have any intercourse with them — which picks 
out by preference every chance to snarl, and bite, and find fault. 
Honor paid to a fellow-creature is hateful to them: they turn 
pale with envy and malignance. 

As I think that my humble lance, wielded in defense of Mr. 
Dickens, may meet the sight of that gentleman himself, I can- 
not lose the opportunity of saying how much I love and esteem 
him for what he has taught me through his writings — and for 
the genial influence that these writings spread around them 
wherever they go. Never having seen Boz in the body, we have 
yet had many a tete-a-tete. And I cannot tamely hear one 
whom I have long considered as a personal friend, and as a 
friend to his species, thus falsely and uncharitably and ground- 
lessly attacked. 


The memory of the WARRIORS OF OUR FREEDOM!— 

let us guard it with holy care. Let the mighty pulse which 
throbs responsive in a nation's heart at utterance of that nation's 
names of glory never lie languid when their deeds are told or their 
example cited. To him of the Calm Gray Eye, 2 selected by the 
Leader of the Ranks of Heaven as the instrument for a people's 
redemption; — to him, the bright and brave, who fell in the attack 
at Breed's; 3 — to him, the nimble-footed soldier of the swamps 
of Santee; 4 — to the young stranger from the luxuries of his 
native France; 5 — to all who fought in that long weary fight for 

iFrom the Democratic Review, March, 1842, Vol. X, pp. 259-264. 

2 General George Washington. 

8 Major General Joseph Warren. 

♦Francis Marion. 

6 The Marquis de Lafayette. 


disenthralment from arbitrary rule — may our star fade, and our 
good angel smile upon us no more, if we fail to chamber them in 
our hearts, or forget the method of their dear-won honor! 

For the fame of these is not as the fame of common heroes. 
The mere gaining of battles — the chasing away of an opposing 
force — wielding the great energies of bodies of military — rising 
proudly amid the smoke and din of the fight — and marching 
the haughty march of a conqueror — all this, spirit-stirring as it 
may be to the world, would fail to command the applause of the 
just and discriminating. But such is not the base whereon 
American warriors found their title to renown. Our storied 
names are those of the Soldiers of Liberty; hardy souls, encased 
in hardy bodies — untainted with the effeminacy of voluptuous 
cities, patient, enduring much for principle's sake, and wending 
on through blood, disease, destitution, and prospects of gloom to 
attain the Great Treasure. 

Years have passed; the sword-clash and the thundering of 
the guns have died away; and all personal knowledge of those 
events — of the fierce incentives to hate, and the wounds, and 
scorn, and the curses from the injured, and wailings from the 
prisoners — lives now but in the memory of a few score of gray- 
haired men; whose number is, season after season, made thinner 
and thinner by death. Haply, long, long will be the period ere 
our beloved country shall witness the presence of such or similar 
scenes again. Haply, too, the time is arriving when War, with 
all its train of sanguinary horrors, will be a discarded custom 
among the nations of earth. A newer and better philosophy — 
teaching how evil it is to hew down and slay ranks of fellow- 
men, because of some disagreement between their respective 
rulers — is melting away old prejudices upon this subject, as 
warmth in spring melts the frigid ground. : 

The lover of his race — did he not, looking abroad in the 
world, see millions whose swelling hearts are all crushed into 
the dust beneath the iron heel of oppression; did he not behold 
how kingcraft and priestcraft stalk abroad over fair portions of 
the globe, and forge the chain, and rivet the yoke; and did he not 
feel that it were better to live in one flaming atmosphere of car- 
nage than slavishly thus — would offer up nightly prayers that 
this new philosophy might prevail to the utmost, and the reign 
of peace never more be disturbed among mankind. 

On one of the anniversaries of our national independence, I 
was staying at the house of an old farmer, about a mile from a 


thriving country town, whose inhabitants were keeping up the 
spirit of the occasion with great fervor. The old man himself 
was a thumping patriot. Early in the morning, my slumbers 
had been broken by the sharp crack of his ancient musket, 
(I looked upon that musket with reverence, for it had seen 
service in the war), firing salutes in honor of the day. I am 
free to confess, my military propensities were far from strong 
enough (appropriate as they might have been considered at 
such a time) to suppress certain peevish exclamations toward 
the disturber of my sweet repose. In the course of the forenoon, 
I attended the ceremonials observed in the village; sat, during 
the usual patriotic address, on the same bench with a time-worn 
veteran that had fought in the contest now commemorated; 
witnessed the evolutions of the uniform company; and returned 
home with a most excellent appetite for my dinner. 

The afternoon was warm and drowsy. I ensconced myself 
in my easy-chair, near an open window; feeling in that most 
blissful state of semi-somnolency, which it is now and then, 
though rarely, given to mortals to enjoy. I was alone, the 
family of my host having gone on some visit to a neighbor. 
The bees hummed in the garden, and among the flowers that 
clustered over the window frame; a sleepy influence seemed to 
imbue everything around; occasionally the faint sound of some 
random gunfire from the village would float along, or the just 
perceptible music from the band, or the tra-a-a-ra- of a locust. 
But these were far from being jars to the quiet spirit I have 

Insensibly, my consciousness became less and less distinct; my 
head leaned back; my eyes closed; and my senses relaxed from 
their waking vigilance. I slept. 

. . . How strange a chaos is sometimes the outset to a 
dream! 1 — There was the pulpit of the rude church, the scene of 
the oration — and in it a grotesque form whom I had noticed 
as the drummer in the band, beating away as though calling 
scattered forces to the rescue. Then the speaker of the day 
pitched coppers with some unshorn hostler boys; and the grave 
personage who had opened the services with prayer was half 
stripped and running a foot-race with a tavern loafer. The 
places and the persons familiar to my morning excursion about 
the country town appeared as in life, but in situations all fan- 
tastic and out of the way. 

i C/.post, II, pp. 200-204. 


After a while, what I beheld began to reduce itself to more 
method. With the singular characteristic of dreams, I knew — 
I could not tell how — that thirty years elapsed from the then 
time, and I was among a new generation. Beings by me never 
seen before, and some with shrivelled forms, bearing an odd 
resemblance to men whom I had known in the bloom of man- 
hood, met my eyes. 

Methought I stood in a splendid city. It seemed a gala day. 
Crowds of people were swiftly wending along the streets and 
walks, as if to behold some great spectacle or famous leader. 

"Whither do the people go?" said I to a Shape who passed 
me, hurrying on with the rest. 

"Know you not," answered he, "that the Last of the Sacred 
Army may be seen to-day?" 

And he hastened forward, apparently fearful lest he might 
be late. 

Among the dense ranks I noticed many women, some of them 
with infants in their arms. Then there were boys, beautiful 
creatures, struggling on, with a more intense desire even than 
the men. And as I looked up, I saw at some distance, coming 
toward the place where I stood, a troop of young females, the 
foremost one bearing a wreath of fresh flowers. The crowd 
pulled and pushed so violently that this party of girls were 
sundered one from another, and she who carried the wreath 
being jostled, her flowers were trampled to the ground. 

"O, hapless me!" cried the child; and she began to weep. 

At that moment her companions came up; and they looked 
frowningly when they saw the wreath torn. 

"Do not grieve, gentle one," said I to the weeping child. 
"And you," turning to the others, "blame her not. There 
bloom more flowers, as fair and fragrant as those which lie rent 
beneath your feet." 

"No," said one of the little troop, "it is now too late." 

"What mean you?" I asked. 

The children looked at me in wonder. 

"For whom did you intend the wreath?" continued I. 

"Heard you not," rejoined one of them, "that to-day may 
be seen the Last of His Witnesses? We were on our way to 
present this lovely wreath — and she who would give it was to 
say, that fresh and sweet, like it, would ever be His memory in 
the souls of us, and of our countrymen." 

And the children walked on. 


Yielding myself to the sway of the current, which yet con- 
tinued to flow in one huge human stream, I was carried through 
street after street, and along many a stately passage, the 
sides of which were lined by palace-like houses. After a time, 
we came to a large open square, which seemed to be the desti- 
nation — for there the people stopped. At the further end of 
this square stood a magnificent building, evidently intended for 
public purposes; and in front of it a wide marble elevation, half 
platform and half porch. Upon this elevation were a great 
many persons, all of them in standing postures, except one, an 
aged, very aged man, seated in a throne-like chair. His figure 
and face showed him to be of a length of life seldom vouchsaved 
to his kind; and his head was thinly covered with hair of a 
silvery whiteness. 

Now near me stood one whom I knew to be a learned philoso- 
pher; and to him I addressed myself for an explanation of these 
wonderful things. 

"Tell me," said I, "who is the ancient being seated on yonder 

The person to whom I spoke stared in my face surprisedly. 

"Are you of this land," said he, " and have not heard of him — 
the Last of the Sacred Army?" 

"I am ignorant," answered I, "of whom you speak, or of what 

The philosopher stared a second time; but soon, when I 
assured him I was not jesting, he began telling me of former 
times, and how it came to be that this white-haired remnant of 
a past age was the object of so much honor. Nor was the story 
new to me — as may it never be to any son of America. 

We edged our way close to the platform. Immediately 
around the seat of the ancient soldier stood many noble-looking 
gentlemen, evidently of dignified character and exalted station. 
Asil came near, I heard them mention a name — that name which 
is dearest to our memories as patriots. 

"And you saw the Chief with your own eyes?" said one of 
the gentlemen. 

"I did," answered the old warrior. 

And the crowd were hushed, and bent reverently, as if 
in a holy presence. 

"I would," said another gentleman, "I would you had some 
relic which might be as a chain leading from our hearts to his." 

"I have such a relic," replied the aged creature; and with 


trembling fingers he took from his bosom a rude medal, sus- 
pended round his neck by a string. "This the Chief gave me," 
continued he, "to mark his good-will for some slight service I 
did the Cause." 

"And has it been in his hands?" 1 asked the crowd, eagerly. 

"Himself hung it around my neck," said the veteran. 

Then the mighty mass was hushed again, and there was no 
noise — but a straining of fixed eyes, and a throbbing of hearts, 
and cheeks pale with excitement — such excitement as might be 
caused in a man's soul by some sacred memorial of one he 
honored and loved deeply. 

Upon the medal were the letters "G. W. 

"Speak to us of him, and of his time," said the crowd. 

A few words the old man uttered; but few and rambling as 
they were, the people listened as to the accents of an orator. 

Then it was time for him to stay there no longer. So he 
rose, assisted by such of the by-standers whose rank and repu- 
tation gave them the right, and slowly descended. The mass 
divided, to form a passage for him and his escort, and they 
passed forward. And as he passed, the young boys struggled to 
him, that they might take his hand, or touch his garments. 
The women, too, brought their infants, to be placed for a mo- 
ment in his arms; and every head was uncovered. 

I noticed that there was little shouting, or clapping of hands — 
but a deep-felt sentiment of veneration seemed to pervade them, 
far more honorable to its object than the loudest acclamations. 

In a short time, as the white-haired ancient was out of sight, 
the square was cleared, and I stood in it with no companion but 
the philosopher. 

"Is it well," said I, "that such reverence be bestowed by a 
great people on a creature like themselves? The self-respect 
each one has for his own nature might run the risk of effacement 
were such things often seen. Besides, it is not allowed that man 
pay worship to his fellow." 

"Fear not," answered the philosopher; "the occurrences you 
have just witnessed spring from the fairest and manliest traits 
in the soul. Nothing more becomes a nation than paying its 
choicest honors to the memory of those who have fought for 
it or labored for its good. By thus often bringing up their ex- 
amples before the eyes of the living, others are incited to follow 
in the same glorious path. Do not suppose, young man, that it 

iCf. post, II, pp. 3, 285, 286. 


is by sermons and oft-repeated precepts we form a disposition 
great or good. 1 The model of one pure, upright character, 
living as a beacon in history, does more benefit than the lum- 
bering tomes of a thousand theorists. 

"No: it is well that the benefactors of a state be so kept alive 
in memory and in song, when their bodies are mouldering. 
Then will it be impossible for a people to become enslaved; for 
though the strong arm of their old defender come not as for- 
merly to the battle, his spirit is there, through the power of re- 
membrance, and wields a better sway even than if it were of 
fleshy substance." 

. . . The words of the philosopher sounded indistinctly 
to my ears — and his features faded, as in a mist. I awoke and 
looking through the window, saw that the sun had just sunk 
in the west — two hours having passed away since the com- 
mencement of my afternoon slumber. 


A very cheerless and fallacious doctrine is that which teaches 
to deny the yielding to natural feelings, righteously directed, 
because the consequences may be trouble and grief as well as 
satisfaction and pleasure. The man who lives on from year 
to year, jealous of ever placing himself in a situation where 
the chances can possibly turn against him — ice, as it were, sur- 
rounding his heart, and his mind too scrupulously weighing in a 
balance the results of giving way to any of those propensities 
his Creator has planted in his heart — may be a philosopher, but 
can never be a happy man. 

Upon the banks of a pleasant river stood a cottage, the resi- 
dence of an ancient man whose limbs were feeble with the weight 
of years and of former sorrow. In his appetites easily grati- 
fied, like the simple race of people among whom he lived, every 
want of existence was supplied by a few fertile acres. Those 
acres were tilled and tended by two brothers, grandsons of the 

^."Logic and sermons never convince." ("Leaves of Grass," 1917, I, p. 70.) 

2 From the Democratic Review, July, 1 842, Vol. XI, pp. 83-86. 

This unsuccessful attempt to write the Hawthornesque allegorical tale has, perhaps, 
a secondary significance because of the fact that Whitman's recent return to the city 
forced upon him just such a decision as he describes in the tale. 


old man, and dwellers also in the cottage. The parents of the 
boys lay buried in a grave near by. 

Nathan, the elder, had hardly seen his twentieth summer. 
He was a beautiful youth. Glossy hair clustered upon his head, 
and his cheeks were brown from sunshine and open air. Though 
the eyes of Nathan were soft and limpid, like a girl's, and his 
cheeks curled with a voluptious swell, exercise and labor 
had developed his limbs into noble and manly proportions. 
The bands of hunters, as they met sometimes to start off to- 
gether after game upon the neighboring hills, could hardly 
show one among their number who in comeliness, strength, or 
activity, might compete with the youthful Nathan. 

Mark was but a year younger than his brother. He, too, 
had great beauty. 

In course of time the ancient sickened, and knew that he 
was to die. Before the approach of the fatal hour, he called 
before him the two youths, and addressed them thus: 

"The world, my children, is full of deceit. Evil men swarm 
in every place; and sorrow and disappointment are the fruits 
of intercourse with them. So wisdom is wary. 

"And as the things of life are only shadows, passing like the 
darkness of the cloud, twine no bands of love about your hearts. 
For love is the ficklest of the things of life. The object of our 
affection dies, and we thenceforth languish in agony; or perhaps 
the love we covet dies, and that is more painful yet. 

"It is well never to conficle in any man. It is well to keep 
aloof from the follies and impurities of earth. Let there be no 
links between you and others. Let not any being control you 
through your dependence upon him for a portion of your hap- 
piness. This, my sons, I have learned by bitter experience, is 
the teaching of truth." 

Within a few days afterward, the old man was placed away 
in the marble tomb of his kindred, which was built on a hill by 
the shore. 

Now the injunctions given to Nathan and his brother — in- 
junctions frequently impressed upon them before by the same 
monitorial voice — were pondered over by each youth in his 
inmost heart. They had always habitually respected their 
grandsire: whatever came from his mouth, therefore, seemed as 
the words of an oracle not to be gainsaid. 

Soon the path of Nathan chanced to be sundered from that of 


And the trees leaved out, and then in autumn cast their foli- 
age; and in due course leaved out again, and again, and many- 
times again — and the brothers met not yet. 

Two score years and ten! what change works over earth in 
such a space as two score years and ten ! 

As the sun, an hour ere his setting, cast long slanting shadows 
to the eastward, two men, withered, and with hair thin and 
snowy, came wearily up from opposite directions, and stood to- 
gether at a tomb built on a hill by the borders of a fair river. 
Why do they start, as each casts his dim eyes toward the face of 
the other? Why do tears drop down their cheeks, and their 
frames tremble even more than with the feebleness of age ? They 
are the long separated brothers, and they enfold themselves in 
one another's arms. 

"And yet," said Mark, after a few moments, stepping back 
and gazing earnestly upon his companion's form and features, 
" and yet it wonders me that thou art my brother. There should 
be a brave and beautiful youth, with black curls upon his head, 
and not those pale emblems of decay. And my brother should 
be straight and nimble — not bent and tottering as thou." 

The speaker cast a second searching glance — a glance of dis- 

"And I," rejoined Nathan, "I might require from my brother, 
not such shrivelled limbs as I see — and instead of that cracked 
voice the full swelling music of a morning heart — but that half 
a century is a fearful melter of comeliness and of strength; for 
half a century it is, dear brother, since my hand touched thine, 
or my gaze rested upon thy face." 

Mark sighed, and answered not. 

Then, in a little while, they made inquiries about what had 
befallen either during the time past. Seated upon the marble 
by which they had met, Mark briefly told his story. 

"I bethink me, brother, many, many years have indeed 
passed over since the sorrowful days when our grandsire, dying, 
left us to seek our fortunes amid a wicked and a seductive world. 

"His last words, as thou, doubtless, dost remember, advised 
us against the snares that should beset our subsequent journey- 
ings. He portrayed the dangers which lie in the path of love; 
he impressed upon our minds the folly of placing confidence in 
human honor; and warned us to keep aloof from too close 
communion with our kind. He then died but his instructions 
lived, and have ever been present in my memory. 


"Dear Nathan, why should I conceal from you that at that 
time I loved. My simple soul, ungifted with the wisdom of our 
aged relative, had yielded to the delicious folly, and the brown- 
eyed Eva was my young heart's choice. O brother, even now — 
the feeble and withered thing I am — dim recollections, pleasant 
passages, come forth around me, like the joy of old dreams. A 
boy again, and in the confiding heart of a boy, I walk with Eva 
by the river's bank. And the gentle creature blushes at my 
protestations of love, and leans her cheek upon my neck. The 
regal sun goes down in the west, and we gaze upon the glory of 
the clouds that attend his setting, and while we look at their 
fantastic changes, a laugh sounds out, clear like a flute, and 
merry as the jingling of silver bells. It is the laugh of Eva." 

The eye of the old man glistened with unwonted brightness. 
He paused, sighed, the brightness faded away, and he went on 
with his narration. 

"As I said, the dying lessons of him whom we reverenced were 
treasured in my soul. I could not but feel their truth. I feared 
that if I again stood beside the maiden of my love, and looked 
upon her face, and listened to her words, the wholesome axioms 
might be blotted from my thoughts, so I determined to act as 
became a man: from that hour I never have beheld the brown- 
eyed Eva. 

"I went amid the world. Acting upon the wise principle 
which our aged friend taught us, I looked upon everything 
with suspicious eyes. Alas ! I found it but too true that iniquity 
and deceit are the ruling spirits of men. 

"Some called me cold, calculating, and unamiable; but it 
was their own unworthiness that made me appear so to their 
eyes.' I am not — you know, my brother — I am not, naturally, 
of proud and repulsive manner; but I was determined never to 
give my friendship merely to be blown off again, it might chance 
as a feather by the wind; nor interweave my course of life with 
those that very likely would draw all the advantage of the con- 
nection, and leave me no better than before. 

"I engaged in traffic. Success attended me. Enemies said 
that my good fortune was the result of chance — but I knew it 
the fruit of the judicious system of caution which governed me 
in matters of business, as well as of social intercourse. 

"My brother, thus have I lived my life. Your look asks me 
if I have been happy. Dear brother, truth impells me to say 
no. Yet, assuredly, if few glittering pleasures ministered to me 


on my journey, equally few were the disappointments, the 
hopes blighted, the trusts betrayed, the faintings of the soul, 
caused by the defection of those in whom I have laid up treas- 

"Ah, my brother, the world is full of misery!" 

The disciple of a wretched faith ceased his story, and there 
was silence a while. 

Then Nathan spoke : 

"In the early years," he said, "I too loved a beautiful woman. 
Whether my heart was more frail than thine, or affection had 
gained a mightier power over me, I could not part from her I 
loved, without the satisfaction of a farewell kiss. We met, — 
I had resolved to stay but a moment, — for I had chalked out my 
future life after the fashion [in which] thou hast described 

"How it was I know not, but the moments rolled on to hours; 
and still we stood with our arms around each other. 

"My brother, a maiden's tears washed my stern resolves 
away. The lure of a voice rolling quietly from two soft lips, 
enticed me from remembrance of my grandsire's wisdom. I 
forgot his teachings and married the woman I loved. 

"Ah! how sweetly sped the seasons! We were blessed. 
True, there came crossings and evils; but we withstood them all, 
and holding each other by the hand, forgot that such a thing as 
sorrow remained in the world. 

"Children were born to us — brave boys and fair girls. Oh, 
Mark, that, that is a pleasure — that swelling of tenderness for 
our offspring — which the rigorous doctrines of your course of 
life have withheld from you! 

"Like you, I engaged in trade. Various fortunes followed 
my path. I will not deny but that some in whom I thought 
virtue was strong proved cunning hypocrites and worthy no 
man's trust. Yet are there many I have known [to be] spot- 
less, as far as humanity may be spotless. 

"Thus, to me, life has been alternately dark and fair. Have 
I lived happy? — No, not completely; it is never for mortals so to 
be. But I can lay my hand upon my heart and thank the Great 
Master that the sunshine has been far oftener than the darkness 
of the clouds. 

"Dear brother, the world had misery — but it is a pleasant 
world still, and affords much joy to the dwellers!" 

As Nathan ceased, his brother looked up in his face, like 


a man unto whom a simple truth had been for the first time 


High, high in space floated the angel Alza. Of the spirits 
who minister in heaven, Alza is not the chief; neither is he em- 
ployed in deeds of great import, or in the destinies of worlds 
and generations. Yet if it were possible for envy to enter 
among the Creatures Beautiful, many would have pined for the 
station of Alza. There are a million million invisible eyes which 
keep constant watch over the earth — each Child of Light having 
his separate duty. Alza is one of the angels of tears. 

Why waited he, as for commands from above? 

There was a man upon whose brow rested the stamp of the 
guilt of Cain. The man had slain his brother. Now he lay 
in chains awaiting the terrible day when the doom he himself 
had inflicted should be meted to his own person. 

People of the Black Souls! — beings whom the world shrinks 
from, and whose abode, through the needed severity of the 
law, is in the dark cell and massy prison — it may not be but 
that ye have, at times, thoughts of the beauty of virtue, and 
the blessing of a spotless mind. For if we look abroad in the 
world, and examine what is to be seen there, we will know, that 
in every human heart resides a mysterious prompting which 
leads it to love goodness for its own sake. All that is rational 
has this prompting. It never dies. It can never be entirely 
stifled. It may be darkened by the tempests and storms of guilt, 
but ever and anon the clouds roll away, and it shines out again. 
Murderers and thieves, and the most abandoned criminals, have 
been unable to deaden this faculty. 

It came to be, that an hour arrived when the heart of the 
imprisoned fratricide held strange imagining. Old lessons 
and long forgotten hints, about heaven, and purity, and love, 
and gentle kindness, floated into his memory — vacillating, as it 

^rom the Democratic Review, XI, pp. 282-284, September, 1842. 

Professor Bliss Perry finds this sketch "chiefly interesting as proving how very neatly 
the young journalist could play, if need be, upon the flute of Edgar Allan Poe." (Loc. 
cit. p. 24.) As this shows the influence, perhaps, of Poe's prose-poetry, so " Bervance; 
or Father and Son" shows a Poesque decadence. Tales like "A Legend of Life and 
Love" may have been written under the influence of another contributor to the Demo- 
cratic Review, Nathaniel Hawthorne; but if so, the imitation was far less successful in 
the latter case. 


were, like delicate sea-flowers on the bosom of the turgid ocean. 
He remembered him of his brother as a boy — how they played 
together of the summer afternoons — and how, wearied out at 
evening, they slept pleasantly in each other's arms. O, Master 
of the Great Laws! Couldst thou but roll back the years and 
place that guilty creature a child again by the side of that 
brother! Such were the futile wishes of the criminal. And as 
repentance and prayer worked forth from his soul, he sank 
on the floor drowsily, and a tear stood beneath his eyelids. 

Repentance and prayer from him ! What hope could there 
be for aspirations having birth in a source so polluted? Yet the 
Sense which is never sleepless heard that tainted soul's desire, 
and willed that an answering mission should be sent straight- 

When Alza felt the mind of the Almighty in his heart — for it 
was rendered conscious to him in the moment — he cleaved the 
air with his swift pinions, and made haste to perform the cheer- 
ful duty. Along and earthward he flew — seeing far, far below 
him mountains, and towns, and seas, and stretching forests. 
At distance, in the immeasurable fields wherein he travelled, 
was the eternal glitter of countless worlds — wheeling and whirl- 
ing, and motionless never. After a brief while, the Spirit be- 
held the city of his destination; and, drawing nigh, he hovered 
over it — that great city shrouded in the depths of night, and its 
many thousands slumbering. 

Just as his presence, obedient to his desire, was transferring 
itself to the place where the murderer lay, he met one of his 
own kindred spreading his wings to rise from the ground. 

"O Spirit," said Alza, "what a sad scene is here!" 

"I grow faint," the other answered, "at looking abroad 
through these guilty places. Behold that street to the right." 

He pointed, and Alza, turning, saw rooms of people, some 
with their minds maddened by intoxication, some uttering horrid 
blasphemies — sensual creatures, and wicked, and mockers of all 

"O, brother," said the Tear-Angel, "let us not darken our 
eyes with the sight. Let us on to our appointed missions. What 
is yours, my brother?" 

"Behold!" answered the Spirit. 

And then Alza knew for the first time that there was a third 
living thing near by. With meek and abashed gesture, the 
soul of a girl just dead stood forth before them. Alza, without 


jAi^.e.--t-J^t.j J/<^i^~4^ 



4 /^y^/^y f/i„,,^-U^ 




A letter of 1842, offering for publication the tale which begins on 
the opposite page. Reproduced through the courtesy of the owner, 
Mr. Thomas B. Harned. 


asking his companion, saw that the Spirit had been sent to guide 
and accompany the stranger through the Dark Windings. 

So he kissed the brow of the re-born, and said, 

" Be of good heart ! Farewell, both ! " 

And the soul and its monitor departed upward, and Alza 
went into the dungeon. 

Then, like a swinging vapor, the form of the Tear-Angel 
was by and over the body of the sleeping man. To his vision 
night was as day, and day as night. 

At first, something like a shudder went through him, for 
when one from the Pure Country approaches the wickedness of 
evil, the presence thereof is made known to him by an instinctive 
pain. Yet a moment, and the gentle Spirit cast glances of pity 
on the unconscious fratricide. In the great Mystery of Life, 
Alza remembered, though even he understood it not, it had been 
settled by the Unfathomable that Sin and Wrong should be. 
And the angel knew too, that Man, with all the darkness and 
the clouds about him, might not be contemned, even by the 
Princes of the Nighest Circle to the White Throne. 

He slept. His hair, coarse and tangly through neglect, 
lay in masses about his head, and clustered over his neck. One 
arm was doubled under his cheek, and the other stretched 
straight forward. Long steady breaths, with a kind of hissing 
sound, came from his lips. 

So he slumbered calmly. So the fires of a furnace, at night, 
though not extinguished, slumber calmly, when its swarthy 
ministers impel it not. Haply, he dreamed some innocent 
dream. Sleep on, sleep on, outcast! There will soon be for 
you a reality harsh enough to make you wish those visions had 
continued alway, and you [had] never awakened. 

Oh, it is not well to look coldly and mercilessly on the bad 
done by our fellows. That convict — that being of the bloody 
hand — who could know what palliations there were for his 
guilt? Who might say there was no premature seducing aside 
from the walks of honesty — and no seed of evil planted by others 
in his soul during his early years? Who should tell he was not 
so bred that had he at manhood possessed aught but propensi- 
ties for evil it would have been miraculous indeed? Who 
might dare cast the first stone? 1 

The heart of a man is a glorious temple; yet its Builder has 
seen fit to let it become, to a degree, like the Jewish structure 

l Cf. post, I, pp. 97-103, 108-110. 


of old, a mart for gross traffic, and the presence of unchaste 
things. In the Shrouded Volumes doubtless it might be per- 
ceived how this is a part of the mighty and beautiful Harmony; 
but our eyes are mortal, and the film is over them. 

The Angel of Tears bent him by the side of the prisoner's 
head. An instant more, and he rose, and seemed about to 
depart; as one whose desire had been attained. Wherefore 
does that pleasant look spread like a smile over the features of 
the slumberer? 

In the darkness overhead yet linger the soft wings of Alza. 
Swaying above the prostrate mortal, the Spirit bends his white 
neck, and his face is shaded by the curls of his hair, which 
hang about him like a golden cloud. Shaking the beautiful 
tresses back, he stretches forth his hands, and raises his large 
eyes upward, and speaks murmuringly in the language used 
among the Creatures Beautiful: 

"I come. Spirits of Pity and Love, favored children of the 
Loftiest 1 — whose pleasant task it is with your pens of adamant 
to make record upon the Silver Leaves of those things which, 
when computed together at the Day of the End, are to outcancel 
the weight of the sum of evil — your chambers I seek!" 

And the Angel of Tears glided away. 

While a thousand air-forms, far and near, responded in the 
same tongue wherewith Alza had spoken: 

" Beautiful, to the Eye of the Centre, is the sight which ushers 
repentance ! " 


Who says that there are not angels or invisible spirits watch- 
ing around us? The teeming regions of the air swarm with 
bodiless ghosts — bodiless to human sight, because of their ex- 
ceeding and too dazzling beauty! 

And there is one, childlike, with helpless and unsteady move- 
ments, but a countenance of immortal bloom, whose long- 
lashed eyes droop downward. The name of the Shape is Dai. 

l Cf. infra y p. 47; and post, II, p. 71. 

2 From the Columbian Magazine, 1, 3, pp. 138-139, March, i&u.. The fanciful sketch 
was announced in the February number of the Columbian. 

In Greek mythology Eris was the goddess of discord, daughter of Nyx (Night), sister 
of Mars (War), and mother of Strife. It was she who, being uninvited to the nuptials 
of Pelius and Thetis, provoked the strife among the goddesses which resulted in the 
Trojan War. 


'When he comes near, the angels are silent, and gaze upon him 
with pity and affection. And the fair eyes of the Shape roll, 
but fix upon no object; while his lips move, but a plaintive tone 
only is heard, the speaking of a single name. Wandering in the 
confines of earth, or restlessly amid the streets of the beautiful 
land, goes Dai, earnestly calling on one he loves. 

Wherefore is there no response ? 

Soft as the feathery leaf of the frailest flower — pure as the 
heart of flame — of a beauty so lustrous that the sons of Heaven 
themselves might well be drunken to gaze thereon — with fleecy 
robes that but half apparel a maddening whiteness and grace — 
dwells Eris among the creatures beautiful, a chosen and cher- 
ished one. And Eris is the name called by the wandering angel 
— while no answer comes, and the loved flies swiftly away, with 
a look of sadness and displeasure. 

It had been years before that a maid and her betrothed lived 
in one of the pleasant places of earth. Their hearts clung to 
one another with the fondness of young life, and all its dreamy 
passion. Each was simple and innocent. Mortality might 
not know a thing better than their love, or more sunny than 
their happiness. 

In the method of the rule of fate, it was ordered that the maid 
should sicken, and be drawn nigh to the gates of death — nigh, 
but not through them. Now to the young who love purely 
High Power commissions to each a gentle guardian, who 
hovers around unseen day and night. The office of this spirit 
is to keep a sleepless watch, and fill the heart of its charge with 
strange and mysterious and lovely thoughts. Over the maid 
was placed Dai, and through her illness the unknown presence 
of the youth hung near continually. 

To the immortal, days, years and centuries are the same. 

Erewhile, a cloud was seen in Heaven. The delicate ones 
bent their necks, and shook as if a chill blast had swept by — 
and white robes were drawn around shivering and terrified forms. 

An archangel with veiled cheeks cleared the air. Silence 
spread through the hosts of the passed away, who gazed in 
wonder and fear. And as they gazed they saw a new companion 
of wondrous loveliness among them — a strange and timid crea- 
ture, who, were it not that pain must never enter those borders 
of innocence, would have been called unhappy. The angels 
gathered around the late comer with caresses and kisses, and 
they smiled pleasantly with joy in each other's eyes. 


Then the archangel's voice was heard — and they who heard 
it knew that One mightier spake his will therein: 

"The child Dai!" said he. 

A far reply sounded out in tones of trembling and appre- 

"I am here!" 

And the youth came forth from the distant confines, whither 
he had been in solitude. The placid look of peace no more il- 
lumined his brow with silver light, and his unearthly beauty 
was as a choice statue enveloped in mist and smoke. 

"Oh, weak and wicked spirit!" said the archangel, "thou 
hast been false to thy mission and thy Master!" 

The quivering limbs of Dai felt weak and cold. He would 
have made an answer in agony — but at that moment he lifted 
his eyes and beheld the countenance of Eris, the late comer. 

Love is potent, even in Heaven! and subtle passion creeps into 
the hearts of the sons of beauty, who feel the delicious impulse, 
and know that there is a soft sadness sweeter than aught in the 
round of their pleasure eternal. 

When the youth saw Eris, he sprang forward with lightning 
swiftness to her side. But the late comer turned away with 
aversion. The band of good-will might not be between them, 
because of wrongs done, and the planting of despair in two 
happy human hearts. 

At the same moment, the myriads of interlinked spirits that 
range step by step from the throne of the Uppermost (as the 
power of that light and presence which is unbearable even 
to the deathless, must be tempered for the sight of any created 
thing, however lofty) were conscious of a motion in the mind 
of God. Quicker than electric thought the command was ac- 
complished! The disobedient angel felt himself enveloped in a 
sudden cloud, impenetrably dark. The face of Eris gladdened 
and maddened him no more. He turned himself to and fro, and 
stretched out his arms — but though he knew the nearness of his 
companions, the light of Heaven, and of the eyes of Eris, was 
strangely sealed to him. The youth was blind forever. 

So a wandering angel sweeps through space with restless and 
unsteady movements — and the sound heard from his lips is the 
calling of a single name. But the loved flies swiftly away in 
sadness, and heeds him not. Onward and onward speeds the 
angel, amid scenes of ineffable splendor, though to his sight the 
splendor is darkness. But there is one scene that rests before 


him alway. It is of a low brown dwelling among the children of 
men; and in an inner room a couch, whereon lies a young maid, 
whose cheeks rival the frailness and paleness of foam. Near 
by is a youth, and the filmy eyes of the girl are bent upon him 
in fondness. What dim shape hovers overhead ? He is invisible 
to mortals; but oh! well may the blind spirit, by the token of 
throbs of guilty and fiery love beating through him, know that 
hovering form! Thrust forward by such fiery love, the shape 
dared transcend his duty. Again the youth looked upon the 
couch, and beheld a lifeless corpse. 

This is the picture upon the vision of Dai. His brethren of 
the bands of light, as they meet him in his journeyings, pause 
awhile for pity; yet never do the pangs of their sympathy, the 
only pangs known to those sinless creatures, or arms thrown 
softly around him, or kisses on his brow, efface the pure linea- 
ments of the sick girl — the dead. 

In the portals of Heaven stands Eris, oft peering into the 
outer distance. Nor of the millions of winged passengers 
that hourly come and go, does one enter whose features are not 
earnestly scanned by the watcher. And the fond joy resides 
in her soul, that the time is nigh at hand; for a thread yet binds 
the angel down to the old abode, and until the breaking of that 
bond, Eris keeps vigil in the portals of Heaven. 

The limit of the watch comes soon. On earth, a toil-worn 
man has returned from distant travel, and lays him down, 
weary and faint at heart, on a floor amid the ruins of that low 
brown dwelling. The slight echo is heard of moans coming 
from the breast of one who yearns to die. Life, and rosy light, 
and the pleasant things of nature, and the voices and sight of 
his fellows, and the glory of thought — the sun, the flowers, 
the glittering stars, the soft breeze — have no joy for him. And 
the coffin and the cold earth have no horror; they are a path 
to the unforgotten. 

Thus the tale is told in Heaven, how the pure love of two 
human beings is a sacred thing, which the immortals themselves 
must not dare to cross. In pity to the disobedient angel he is 
blind, that he may not gaze ceaselessly on one who returns his 
love with displeasure. And haply Dai is the spirit of the des- 
tiny of those whose selfishness would seek to mar the peace 
of gentle hearts, by their own unreturned and unhallowed 



A Sketch of a Winter Morning on the Battery 

Just before noon, one day last winter, when the pavements 
were crusted plentifully with ice-patches, and the sun, though 
shining out very brightly by fits and starts, seemed incapable 
of conveying any warmth, I took my thick overcoat, and pre- 
pared to sally forth for a walk. The wind whistled as I shut 
the door behind me, and when I turned the corner it made the 
most ferocious demonstrations toward my hat, which I was able 
to keep on my head not without considerable effort. My flesh 
quivered with the bitter coldness of the air. My breath ap- 
peared steam. Qu — foo-o! how the gust swept along! 

Coming out into Broadway, I wended along by the Park, St. 
Paul's Church, and the icicle-tipped trees in Trinity graveyard. 
Having by this time warmed myself into a nice glow, I grew more 
comfortable, and felt ready to do any deed of daring that might 
present itself — even to the defiance of the elements which were 
growling so snappishly around me. 

When I arrived at Battery-place — at the crossing which 
leads from that antique, two-story corner house, to the massive 
iron gates on the opposite side — I must confess that I was for a 
moment in doubt whether I had not better, after all, turn and 
retrace my steps. The wind absolutely roared. I could hear 
the piteous creaking of the trees on the Battery as the branches 
grated against one another, and could see how they were bent 
down by the power of the blast. Out in the bay the waves 
were rolling and rising, and over the thick rails which line the 
shore-walk dashed showers of spray, which fell upon the flag- 
stones and froze there. 

But it was a glorious and inspiriting scene, with all its wildness. 
I gave an extra pull of my hat over my brows — a closer adjust- 
ment of my collar around my shoulders, and boldly ventured on- 
ward. I stepped over the crossing, and passed through the gate. 

Ha! ha! Let the elements run riot! There is an exhilar- 
ating sensation — a most excellent and enviable fun — in steadily 
pushing forward against the stout winds! 

»From the Columbian Magazine , Vol. II, pp. 113-114, September, 1844. 

This sketch was written before July 1, 1844, since in the issue of the Columbian for 
September of that year the editor, in accepting the present sketch, informed corres- 
pondents that contributions had all been read up to July 1. 


The whole surface of the Battery was spread with snow. It 
seemed one mighty bride's couch, and was very brilliant, as 
though varnished with a clear and glossy wash. This huge, 
white sheet, glancing back a kind of impudent defiance to the 
sun, which shone sharply the while, was not, it seemed, to be 
left in its repose, or without an application to use and jollity. 
Many dozens of boys were there, with skates and small sleds — 
very busy. Oh, what a noisy and merry band! 

The principal and choicest of the play tracts was in that ave- 
nue, the third from the water, known to summer idlers as 
" Lovers' Walk." For nearly its whole length it was a continued 
expanse of polished ice, made so partly by the evenness of the 
surface and partly by the labor of the boys. This fact I found 
out to my cost; for, turning in it before being aware that it was 
so fully preoccupied and so slippery, I found it necessary to use 
the utmost caution or run the certainty of a fall. 

"Pawny-guttah!" Gentle lady, (I must here remark,) or 
worthy gentleman, as the case may be, whose countenance 
bends over this page, and whose opportunities have never led 
you to know the use, meaning and import, conveyed in the 
term just quoted — call to your side some bright-eyed boy — a 
brother or a son, or a neighbor's son, and ask him. 

"Pawny-guttah!" I stepped aside instinctively, and, with 
the speed of an arrow there came gliding along, lying prone upon 
a sled, one of the boyish troop. The polished steel runners of 
this little vehicle sped over the ice with a slightly grating noise, 
and he directed his course by touching the toe of either boot, 
behind him, upon the ice, as he wished to swerve to the right 
or left. 

Who can help loving a wild, thoughtless, heedless, joyous 
boy ? Oh, let us do what we can — we who are past the time — 
let us do what we may to aid their pleasures and their little 
delights, and heal up their petty griefs. Wise is he who is him- 
self a child at times. A man may keep his heart fresh and his 
nature youthful, by mixing much with that which is fresh 
and youthful. Why should we, in our riper years, despise these 
little people, and allow ourselves to think them of no higher con- 
sequence than trifles and unimportant toys? 

I know not a prettier custom than that said to be prevalent 
in some parts of the world, of covering the coffins of children with 
flowers. 1 They pass away, frail and blooming, and the blossom 

iCf.infra,?. 35. 


of a day is their fittest emblem. Their greatest and worst 
crimes were but children's follies, and the sorrow which we in- 
dulge for their death has a delicate refinement about it, flowing 
from ideas of their innocence, their simple prattle, and their 
affectionate conduct while living. Try to love children. It is 
purer, and more like that of angels, than any other love. 

Reflections somewhat after this cast were passing in my mind 
as I paused a moment and gazed upon those little players. 
What a miniature, too, were they of the chase of life. Every 
one seemed intent upon his own puny objects — every one in 
pursuit of "fun." 

The days will come and go, and the seasons roll on, and these 
young creatures will grow up and launch out in the world. Who 
can fortell their destinies? Some will die early and be laid 
away in their brown beds of earth, and thus escape the thousand 
throes, and frivolities, and temptations, and miserable fictions 
and mockeries which are interwoven with our journey here on 
earth. Some will plod onward in the path of gain — that great 
idol of the world's worship 1 — and have no higher aspirations than 
for profit upon merchandize. Some will love, and have those 
they love look coldly upon them; and then, in the sickness of 
their heart, curse their own birth hour. But all, all will repose 
at last. 2 

Why, what a sombre moralist I have become! Better were 
it to listen to the bell-like music of those children's voices; and, 
as I turned to wend my way homeward, imbue my fancy with 
a kindred glee and joyishness! Let me close these mottled 


He who at some future time shall take upon himself the 
office of writing the early history of what is done in America, 
and of how the American character was started, formed, and 
finished — with some analysis of its materials, and the parts 
that entered from time to time into its make — will surely have 
much cause to mention what may be called "the pull-down- 
and-build-over-again spirit." This name is so descriptive, 

iCf. infra, pp. 37-39, 45; also post, I, pp. 123-125, II, p. 63, 67-68. 

1 Cf. the poem "We All Shall Rest At Last," infra, p. 10-11. 

3 From the American Review, Vol. II, pp. 536-538, November, 1845. 


that it hardly needs any very elaborate explanation to tell what 
is meant by it. 

Simultaneously with the departure of winter last April, 
(he feigned to go away, it will be remembered, in February, but 
it was only a trick of the old rascal, who came back again more 
grim than ever, as people's frosty noses soon bore witness,) and 
as the warmth of spring penetrated the frozen ground, some of 
those subtle agencies that hold sway over the human will, 
penetrated five hundred New York hearts with a greater 
but very different warmth. Then these five hundred hearts 
prompted their owners to put their hats on their heads and 
walk forth, and view their tenements and lands, for they were 
men of substance. Then they communed with themselves, 
and said in their own hearts, "Let us level to the earth all the 
houses that were not built within the last ten years; let us raise 
the devil and break things!" In pursuance of this resolve, 
they procured workmen, purchased hooks, ladders and batter- 
ing rams, and went to work. Then fled tenants from under roofs 
that had sheltered them when in their cradles, and had wit- 
nessed their parents' marriages — roofs aneath which they had 
grown up from childhood, and that were filled with mem- 
ories of many years. Then wept old men and old women, that 
they were not to die within the walls that they had loved so 
long — rather a foolish weeping, too, when we consider that by 
staying there a few hours longer their desire could have been 
accomplished. Then fell beams and rafters — then were un- 
earthed the dust and decay of the past — then mortar and old 
lime, originally plastered by hands the worms had eaten long ago, 
filled Manhattan island with showers almost as pestiferous as 
the sand-clouds of Sahara. Then exulted each jolly Irishman 
who owned, or could hire, a dirt-cart and a patient horse — 
exulted, and was to be talked to by tax-paying citizens, not as a 
favor, but as one who could grant a favor. Then spoke ham- 
mer to axe, which spoke again to pick, while their triumphant 
din was answered by the melancholy fall of post, cornice and 
clapboard, and the piteous creaking of divorced floors and 
riven ceilings. Then was razed to the ground many a beam, 
rough-coated on the outside, but stout and sound at heart, 
like the men of the former age ! 

Good-bye, old houses! There was that about ye which I 
hold it no shame to say I loved passing well. It is true, ye had 
not the smart jaunty air, the brazen varnished look, of our mod- 


ern buildings; but I liked ye all the better for it. Ah! how 
many happy gatherings some of ye have held in your capacious 
embrace, years ago ! Births , too, and funerals as well, might ye 
tell of. Who that now walks the pavement, or droops away on 
some distant shore, a gray-headed and care-worn man, yet was 
In your knowledge a fair-lipped baby, and a playful boy ! What 
vows of love were breathed in your hearing, and passed into the 
air to disolve — but passed also into human hearts, waking sweet 
echoes where now are the ashes of decay and death ! Answer, 
ye crumbling walls! have ye heard, in the night's silence, no 
bitter groans from young men, sickened of life, even before they 
knew its darkest trials, and wearied with themselves and their 
own follies? Have ye never witnessed solitary tears, shed by 
eyes the world got only glances of pride and coldness from? 
Has the moaning of sick children vibrated through your cham- 
bers, and the merry shout of the gay, and the smooth tongue of 
wedded affection, and the manly voice of true friendship? In 
awe and stillness have ye beheld death? And how sped the 
departing then? Looked he back with a soul fainting at its 
former vanities, or cheerfully like a soldier over the conquered 
battle-field? Ah! deep were the lessons ye might teach, could 
these questionings be answered. 

Some of our citizens — those of them who have the say on 
the subject — want old St. Paul's Church pulled down and built 
over again. When we come to consider how indecorous it is to 
worship our Maker in a place whose foundations were laid near a 
hundred years ago, and which has so many larger and hand- 
somer temples around it; when we reflect on the probable 
gratification of the Lord at having a new house, of such greater 
convenience and splendor than the old one; when we behold 
how much more likely Christians are to entertain humble, meek 
and heavenly thoughts in a church of marble, guilding [gilding] 
and showy carved work, than in one of a plainer make; when we 
remember how there are no starving poor in the world, no chil- 
dren growing up totally devoid of all moral or scientific instruc- 
tion for want of means; when we see that in the present happy 
and perfect state of mankind there is little room for the exercise 
of that virtue whereof Christ said, "Inasmuch as ye refused it 
to the least of these your brethren, ye refused it to me;" when 
we are so clearly convinced that it is consistent for doctrines 
teaching love, simplicity and contempt for worldly show, to be 
expounded in a place whose corner-stones rest upon pride, and 


whose walls are built in vain-glory; when we bethink us how 
good it is to leave no land-marks of the past standing, no pile 
honored by its association with our storied names, with the 
undying memory of our Washington, and with the frequent 
presence of his compatriots; when we consider, also, what a sad 
botch the present St. Paul's Church is, and how it mars the 
elegant beauty of Clirehugh's barber's shop on the opposite 
corner; then we shall feel glad and delighted at the sagacity 
which has discovered the pressing need there is for a better 
church, and eager to see the old one destroyed forthwith. 
Moreover, let there be no half-way work about it. Let those 
miserable old trees be cut away at the same time. What 
good do they there? Why cumber they the ground? There 
is one large elm in particular, whose shade falls darkly at mid- 
day on the graves of two men, soldiers who fought stoutly for 
that freedom we now enjoy. Let that old elm most especially 
be cut down. Its wild arms would split with horror from its 
blistered, weather-beaten trunk, to see the sacred tombs it has 
so long stood sentry over, desecrated by piles of brick and lime, 
for a spruce new church, for a generation that should "forget 
the burial-places of their fathers." 

Not many months since, amid a small, slow-moving proces- 
sion of white-haired ancients, we entered that building, in at- 
tendance on the funeral ceremonies of General Morgan Lewis 
the chief officer of the Society of the Cincinnati. It was a 
chilling, solemn business. As we sat in one of the side pews, we 
looked around at the few withered men, the remnants of the 
Revolution, the testimony of old times, that were near us. 
Erect and stern, unbent with age, there was one whose eyes 
had been undismayed with the smoke of Bunker Hill, and who 
had faltered not after the hapless battle of Long Island. Those 
dim gray orbs, moreover, had gazed upon that paragon of men, 
whose glory is almost more than mortal. "I was with him 
here," I heard him say, an hour afterwards, "to give thanks 
after the British had left the city." With Washington there ! 
Oh, hallowed be the spot where his footsteps fell! Thrice hal- 
lowed be the temple where the purest prayers ever breathed 
from a patriot's heart, went forth toward Heaven! 1 

There may be, and no doubt are, those in this utilitarian age 
who will smile with contempt at sympathies like these, if 
offered as reasons why St. Paul's Church here, or any other 

l Cf. infra, pp. 72-78; post, II, pp. 117—118. 


such noble old building, shall not give place to modern "im- 
provements." Thank Heaven! there are also those who can 
enter into such feelings, and act upon them. There are those 
whose ideas of beauty, worth and grandeur are not altogether 
fixed, as far as such things are concerned, on buildings of im- 
posing height, great breadth, and showy exterior. There are 
those who would, in examining some crowded city, hold more 
attention for that spot in an obscure street where the early 
days of an undying genius were passed than for the proudest 
palace owned by the richest capitalist. There are those who 
would go farther to view even Charlotte Temple's grave, than 
Mr. Astor's stupid-looking house in Broadway 1 — would bear 
more bother for a sight of the "Field of the Grounded Arms," 
than to scan — when it is completed — the famous Girard College. 
To such, greatness and goodness are things intrinsic — mental 
and moral qualities. To the rest of the world, and that is 
nine-tenths of it, appearance is everything. And yet, perhaps 
I am wrong. It is the world, which in spite of itself, pays 
homage to every sacred spot where a great deed has been per- 
formed, or which a truly great man has sanctified by birth or 
death. Can Irishmen forget where Emmet lies buried, that it 
should be marked by no grave-stone, and the proudest columns 
loom up everywhere around? And how many centuries will 
bring the day when Mount Vernon is an indifferent spot to 

Let us not be mistaken. We are by no means desirous of re- 
taining what is old, merely because it is old. We would have 
all dilapidated buildings, as well as all ruinous laws and customs, 
carefully levelled to the ground, forthwith, and better ones put 
in their places. Wherever the untiring fingers of time have done 
their work of decay, there we would neutralize the danger with 
the hand of reformation — imitating thus the great copy of 
Nature, the mother of the only wise philosophy. No friend are 
we to the rotten structures of the past, either of architecture or 
government. It is only where upstarts would pull down some- 
thing noble, stout and true, that we cry, "Stay your hand, 
leveler!" It is only when honorable and holy memorials of 
the good which the past has sent us, with its many evils, is 
jeopardized, that we would raise our voice in warning and in- 
dignation. To all destruction which is a necessary precedent 
to man's glory, comfort, or freedom, we say, "God speed!" and 

1 c/.postyi, p. 219. 


are willing to lend our humble strength withal! This, but no 
more. What we have that is good, that is fully equal to our 
present capacities and wants, that, if destroyed, would doubtless 
be replaced by something not half as excellent: let it stand! 

And I must add — and I hope it is [in] no spirit of harshness — 
that whoever is opposed to such conservatism, whoever moves 
under the impulse of a rabid, feverish itching for change, a 
dissatisfaction with proper things as they are, through the 
blindness which would peril all in the vague chance of a remotely 
possible improvement, has something of the same mischief 
of the soul that "brought death into the world, and all our wo," 1 
a prompting which, even though it comes to put up a new 
church, comes from that father of restlessness, the Devil. 


What would be thought of a man who, having an ill humor 
in his blood, should strive to cure himself by only cutting off the 
festers, the outward signs of it, as they appeared upon the sur- 
face ? Put criminals for festers and society for the diseased man, 
and you may get the spirit of that part of our laws which ex- 
pects to abolish wrong-doing by sheer terror — by cutting off 
the wicked, and taking no heed of the causes of wickedness. 
I have lived long enough to know that national folly never de- 
serves contempt; else I should laugh to scorn such an instance 
of exquisite nonsense ! 

Our statutes are supposed to speak the settled will and voice 
of the community. We may imagine, then, a conversation 
of the following sort to take place — the imposing majesty of the 
people speaking on the one side, a pallid, shivering convict on 
the other. 

"I have done wrong," says the convict; "in an evil hour a 
kind of frenzy came over me, and I struck my neighbor a heavy 
blow, which killed him. Dreading punishment, and the dis- 
grace of my family, I strove to conceal the deed, but it was dis- 

"Then," says society, "you must be killed in return." 

^'Paradise Lost," I, 1. 3. 

2 From the Democratic Review, Vol. XVII, pp. 360-364, November, 1845. 
Cf. post, I, pp. 108-110, II, pp. 15-16. There were many editorials on the subject in 
the Eagle during Whitman's editorship. 


"But," rejoins the criminal, "I feel that I am not fit to die. 
I have not enjoyed life — I have not been happy or good. It 
is so horrid to look back upon one's evil deeds only. Is there 
no plan by which I can benefit my fellow-creatures, even at the 
risk of my own life ? " 

"None," answers society; "you must be strangled — choked 
to death. If your passions are so ungovernable that people are 
in danger from them, we shall hang you." 

"Why that?" asks the criminal, his wits sharpened perhaps 
by his situation. "Can you not put me in some strong prison, 
where no one will be harmed by me? And if the expense is 
anything against this, let me work there, and support my- 

"No," responds society, "we shall strangle you; your crimes 
deserve it." 

"Have you, then, committed no crimes?" asks the murderer. 

"None which the law can touch," answers society. 

"True, one of us had a mother, a weak-souled creature, that 
pined away month after month, and at last died, because her 
dear son was intemperate, and treated her ill. Another, who is 
the owner of many houses thrusts a sick family into the street 
because they did not pay their rent, whereof came the deaths of 
two little children. And another — that particularly well- 
dressed man — effected the ruin of a young girl, a silly thing who 
afterward became demented, and drowned herself in the river. 
One has gained much wealth by cheating his neighbors — but 
cheating so as not to come within the clutches of any statute. 
And hundreds are now from day to day practising deliberately 
the most unmanly and wicked meannesses. We are all frail ! " 

"And these are they who so sternly clamor for my blood!" 
exclaims the convict in amazement. "Why is it that I alone 
am to be condemned?" 

"That they are bad," rejoins society, "is no defense for you." 

"That the multitude have so many faults — that none are 
perfect," says the criminal, "might at least make them more 
lenient to me. If my physical temperament subjects me to 
great passions, which lead me into crime, when wronged too — 
as I was when I struck that fatal blow — is there not charity 
enough among you to sympathize with me — to let me not be 
hung, but safely separated from all that I might harm?" 

"There is some reason in what you say," answers society; 
" but the clergy, who hate the wicked, say that God's own voice 


has spoken against you. We might, perhaps, be willing to 
let you off with imprisonment; but Heaven imperatively forbids 
it, and demands your blood. Besides, that you were wronged 
gave you no right to revenge yourself by taking life." 

"Do you mean me to understand, then," asks the convict, 
" that Heaven is more blood-thirsty than you ? And if wrong 
gives no right to revenge, why am I arraigned thus?" 

"The case is different," rejoins society. "We are a com- 
munity — you are but a single individual. You should forgive 
your enemies." 

"And are you not ashamed," asks the culprit, "to forget that 
as a community which you expect me to remember as a man? 
While the town clock goes wrong, shall each little private watch 
be abused for failing to keep the true time? What are com- 
munities but congregated individuals? And if you, in the po- 
tential force of your high position, deliberately set examples of 
retribution, how dare you look to me for self-denial, forgiveness, 
and the meekest and most difficult virtues?" 

"I cannot answer such questions," responds society; "but 
if you propose no punishment for the bad, what safety is there 
for citizens' rights and peace, which would then be in continual 

"You cannot," says the other, "call a perpetual jail no pun- 
ishment. It is a terrible one. And as to your safety, it will be 
outraged less by mild and benevolent criminal laws than by 
sanguinary and revengeful ones. They govern the insane 
better with gentleness than severity. Are not men possessing 
reason more easily acted on through moral force than men with- 

"But, I repeat it, crimes will then multiply," says society 
(not having much else to say); "the punishment must be severe, 
to avoid that. Release the bad from the fear of hanging, and 
they will murder every day. We must preserve that penalty to 
prevent this taking of life." 

"I was never ignorant of the penalty," answers the criminal; 
"and yet I murdered, for my blood was up. Of all the homi- 
cides committed, not one in a hundred is done by persons un- 
aware of the law. So that you see the terror of death does 
not deter. The hardened and worst criminals, too, frequently 
have no such terror, while the more repentant and humanized 
suffer in it the most vivid agony. At least you could try the 
experiment of no hanging." 


"It might cost too much. Murder would increase,' ' reiter- 
ates society. 

"Formerly," replies the criminal, "many crimes were pun- 
ished by death that now are not; and yet those crimes have 
not increased. Not long since the whipping-post and branding- 
iron stood by the bar of courts of justice, and were often used, 
too. Yet their abolition has not multiplied the evils for which 
they were meted out. This, and much more, fully proves that 
it is by no means the dread of terrible punishment which pre- 
vents terrible crime. And now allow me to ask you a few 
questions. Why are most modern executions private, so called, 
instead of public ? " 

"Because," answers society, "the influence of the spectacle 
is degrading and anti-humanizing. As far as it goes, it begets a 
morbid and unhealthy feeling in the masses." 

"Suppose all the convicts," goes on the prisoner, "adjudged 
to die in one of your largest States, were kept together for two 
whole years, and then in the most public part of the land were 
hung up in a row — say twenty of them together — how would 
this do?" 

"God forbid!" answers society with a start. "The public 
mind would revolt at so bloody and monstrous a demonstra- 
tion. It could not be allowed. " 

"Is it anything less horrible," resumes the questioner, "in 
the deaths being singly and at intervals?" 
"I cannot say it is," answers society. 

"Allow me to suppose a little more," continues the criminal, 
"that all the convicts to be hung in the whole republic for two 
years — say two hundred, and that is a small estimate — were 
strangled at the same time, in full sight of every man, woman 
and child — all the remaining population. And suppose this 
were done periodically every two years. What say you to 

"The very thought sickens me," answers society, "and the 
effect would be more terrible and blighting upon the national 
morals and the health of the popular heart than it is any way 
possible to describe. No unnatural rites of the most barbarous 
and brutal nations of antiquity ever equalled this; and our 
name would always deserve to be written literally in characters 
of blood. The feeling of the sacredness of life would be utterly 
destroyed among us. Every fine and Christian faculty of our 
souls would be rooted away. In a few years, this hellish obla- 


tion becoming common, the idea of violent death would be the 
theme of laughter and ribald jesting. In all the conduct and 
opinions of men, in their every-day business, and in their private 
meditations, so terrible an institution would some way, in some 
method of its influence, be seen operating. What! two hundred 
miserable wretches at once! The tottering old, and the youth 
not yet arrived at manhood; women, too, and perhaps girls who 
are hardly more than children! The spot where such a deed 
should be periodically consummated would surely be cursed 
forever by God and all goodness Some awful and poisonous 
desert it ought to be; though, however awful, it could but faintly 
image the desert such horrors must make of the heart of man, 
and the poison it would diffuse on his better nature." 

"And if all this appalling influence," says the murderer, 
"were really operating over you — not concentrated, but cut up 
in fractions and frittered here and there — just as strong in its 
general effect, but not brought to a point, as in the case I have 
imagined — what would you then say?" 

"Nay," replies society, with feverish haste, "but the exe- 
cutions are now required to be private." 

"Many are not," rejoins the other; "and as to those that are 
nominally so, where everybody reads newspapers, and every 
newspaper seeks for graphic accounts of these executions, such 
things can never be private. What a small proportion of your 
citizens are eye-witnesses of things done in Congress; yet they 
are surely not private, for not a word officially spoken in the 
Halls of the Capitol, but is through the press made as public as 
if every American's ear were within hearing distance of the 
speaker's mouth. The whole spectacle of those two hundred 
executions is more faithfully seen, and much more deliberately 
dwelt upon, through the printed narratives, than if people beheld 
it with their bodily eyes, and then no more. Print preserves it. 
It passes it from hand to hand, and even boys and girls are im- 
bued with its spirit and horrid essence. Your legislators have 
forbidden public executions; they must go farther. They 
must forbid the relation of them by tongue, letter, or picture; 
for your physical sight is not the only avenue through which 
the subtle virus will reach you. Nor is the effect lessened be- 
cause it is more covert and more widely diffused. Rather, 
indeed, the reverse. As things are, the masses take it for 
granted that the system and its results are right. As I have 
supposed them to be, though the nature would remain the 


same, the difference of the form would present the monstrous 
evil in a vivid and utterly new light before men's eyes." 

"To all this," says society, "I answer — what"? What shall 
it be, thou particular reader, whose eyes now dwell on my fanci- 
ful dialogue ? Give it for thyself — and if it be indeed an answer^ 
thou hast a logic of most surpassing art. 

O, how specious is the shield thrown over wicked actions, 
by invoking the Great Shape of Society in their defense ! How 
that which is barbarous, false, or selfish for an individual be- 
comes singularly proper when sanctioned by the legislature, or 
a supposed national policy! How deeds wicked in a man are 
thus applauded in a number of men ! 

What makes a murder the awful crime all ages have consid- 
ered it? The friend and foe of hanging will unite in the reply 
— Because it destroys that cunning principle of vitality which 
no human agency can replace — invades the prerogative of God, 
for God's is the only power that can give life — and offers a 
horrid copy for the rest of mankind. Lo! thou lover of strang- 
ling! with what a keen razor's sharpness does every word of 
this reply cut asunder the threads of that argument which 
defends thy cause! The very facts which render murder a 
frightful crime, render hanging a frightful punishment. To 
carry out the spirit of such a system, when a man maims an- 
other, the law should maim him in return. In the unsettled 
districts of our western states, it is said that in brutal fights the 
eyes of the defeated are sometimes torn bleeding from their 
sockets. The rule which justifies the taking of life, demands 
gouging out of eyes as a legal penalty too. 

I have one point else to touch upon, and then no more. 
There has, about this point, on the part of those who favor 
hanging, been such a bold, impudent effrontery — such a cool 
sneering defiance of all those greater lights which make the 
glory of this age over the shame of the dark ages — a prostitution 
so foul of names and influences so awfully sacred — that I trem- 
ble this moment with passion, while I treat upon it. I speak 
of founding the whole breadth and strength of the hanging 
system, as many do, on the Scriptures. The matter is too 
extensive to be argued fully, in the skirts of an essay; and I have 
therefore but one suggestion to offer upon it, though words 
and ideas rush and swell upon my utterance. When I read in 
the records of the past how Calvin burned Servetus at Geneva, 
and found his defense in the Bible — when I peruse the reign of 


the English Henry 8th, that great champion of Protestantism, 
who, after the Reformation, tortured people to death, for re- 
fusing to acknowledge his spiritual supremacy, and pointed 
to the Scripture as his authority — when, through the short 
reign of Edward 6th, another Protestant sovereign, and of the 
Bloody Mary, a Catholic one, I find the most barbarous cruel- 
ties and martyrdoms inflicted in the name of God and his Sacred 
Word — I shudder and grow sick with pity. Still I remember 
the gloomy ignorance of the law of love that prevailed then, and 
the greater palliations for bigotry and religious folly. I be- 
think me how good it is that the spirit of such horrors, the blas- 
phemy which prostituted God's law to their excuse, and the 
darkness of superstition which applauded them, have all passed 
away. But in these days of greater clearness, when clergymen 
call for sanguinary punishments in the name of the Gospel! 1 — 
when, chased from point to point of human policy, they throw 
themselves on the supposed necessity of hanging in order to 
gratify and satisfy Heaven — when, instead of Christian mild- 
ness and love, they demand that our laws shall be pervaded by 
vindictiveness and violence — when the sacrifice of human life 
is inculcated as in many cases acceptable to Him who they say 
has even revoked his consent to brute sacrifices — my soul is filled 
with amazement, indignation and horror, utterly uncontrol- 
lable. When I go by a church, I cannot help thinking whether 
its walls do not sometimes echo, " Strangle and kill in the name 
of God!" The grasp of a minister's hand produces a kind of 
choking sensation; and by some kind of optical fascination, 
the pulpit is often intercepted from my view by a ghastly gal- 
lows frame. " O, Liberty ! " said Madame Roland, " what crimes 
have been committed in thy name!" 2 "O, Bible!" say I, 
"what follies and monstrous barbarities are defended in thy 

iln 1842 the Rev. W. Patton, D.D., published a pamphlet in New York entitled "Cap- 
ital Punishment Sustained by the Word," and a similar volume had been published by the 
Rev. George B. Cheever in 1843. The Brother Jonathan and the Democratic Review 
had espoused the opposite side of the controversy, the latter publishing, in March, 1842, 
a reply to Wordsworth's "Sonnets on the Punishment of Death" and in October of the 
same year Whittier's "Lines on the Abolition of the Gallows," while Lowell had five 
sonnets in reply to Wordsworth in the issue for May. 

In old age Whitman said: "I was in early life very bigoted in my anti-slavery, anti- 
capital-punishment and so on, but I have always had a latent toleration for the people 
who choose a reactionary course." (See "With Walt Whitman in Camden," I, p. 193.) 

»"0 Liberty! Liberty! how many crimes are committed in thy name!" (Quoted in 
Macaulay's "Essay on Mirabeau.") 



Great is the power of Music over a people! As for us of 
America, we have long enough followed obedient and child-like 
in the track of the Old World. We have received her tenors 
and her buffos [buffas]; her operatic troupes and her vocalists, of 
all grades and complexions; listened to and applauded the songs 
made for a different state of society — made, perhaps, by royal 
genius, but made to please royal ears likewise; and it is time 
that such listening and receiving should cease. The subtlest 
spirit of a nation is expressed through its music — and the music 
acts reciprocally on the nation's very soul. Its effects may 
not be seen in a day, or a year, and yet these effects are potent 
invisibly. They enter into religious feelings — they tinge the 
manners and morals — they are active even in the choice of leg- 
islators and high magistrates. Tariff can be varied to fit cir- 
cumstances — bad laws can be obliterated and good ones formed 
— those enactments which relate to commerce or national 
policy, built up or taken away, stretched or contracted, to suit 
the will of the government for the time being. But no human 
power can thoroughly suppress the spirit which lives in national 
lyrics, and sounds in the favorite melodies sung by high and low. 

There are two kinds of singing — heart-singing and art- 
singing. 2 That which touches the souls and sympathies of 
other communities may have no effect here — unless it appeals 
to the throbbings of the great heart of humanity itself — pictures 
love, hope, or mirth in their comprehensive aspect. But nearly 
every nation has its peculiarities and its idioms, which make 
its best intellectual efforts dearest to itself alone, so that hardly 
any thing which comes to us in the music and songs of the Old 
World, is strictly good and fitting to our own nation. 

iFrom the Broadway Journal, Vol. II, pp. 318-319, November 29, 1845. This essay 
is interesting in revealing an early form taken by Whitman's enthusiasm for American 
democracy, and also in preserving the only record, other than Whitman's own reminis- 
cences, of what Edgar Allan Poe thought of the work of the young writer. This brief 
record appears in the following footnote to the original article: 

"The author desires us to say, for him, that he pretends to no scientific knowledge of 
music. He merely claims to appreciate so much of it (a sadly disdained department, 
just now) as affects, in the language of the deacons, 'the natural heart of man.' It is 
scarcely necessary to add that we agree with our correspondent throughout. Ed. B. J. 
[Edgar Allan Poe]." 

Whitman reprinted this essay, somewhat altered, under the caption " Music that it 
Music," as an editorial in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 4, 1 846. (See " The Gath- 
ering of the Forces," II, pp. 346-349.) 

iC/.post,!, p. 257. 


With all honor and glory to the land of the olive and the 
vine, fair-skied Italy — with no turning up of noses at Germany, 
France or England — we humbly demand whether we have not 
run after their beauties long enough. 

"At last we have found it!" exclaimed we, some nights since, 
at the conclusion of the performances by the Cheney Family, 1 
in Niblo's saloon. 2 At last we have found, and heard, and seen 
something original and beautiful in the way of American musi- 
cal execution. Never having been present at any of the 
Hutchinsons' Concerts 3 (the Cheneys, we are told, are after 
the same token,) the elegant simplicity of this style took us com- 
pletely by surprise, and our gratification was inexpressible. 
This, said we in our heart, is the true method which must become 
popular in the United States — which must supplant the stale, 
second-hand, foreign method, with its flourishes, its ridiculous 
sentimentality, its anti-republican spirit, and its sycophantic in- 
fluence, tainting the young taste of the republic. 

The Cheney young men are such brown-faced, stout-should- 
ered fellows as you will see in almost any American church, in a 
country village, of a Sunday. The girl is strangely simple, 
even awkward, in her ways. Or it may possibly be that she 
disdains the usual clap-trap of smiles, hand-kissing, and dancing- 
school bends. To our taste, there is something refreshing about 
all this. We are absolutely sick to nausea of the patent- 
leather, curled-hair, "japonicadom" style. The Cheneys are 
as much ahead of it as real teeth are ahead of artificial ones — 
even those which Dodge, (nature-rival, as he is,) sent to the late 
Fair. We beg these young Yankees to keep their manners 
plain alway. The sight of them, as they are, puts one in mind 
of health and fresh air in the country, at sunrise — the dewy, 

J The Cheneys composed a quartette, three brothers and a sister, children of a dis- 
tinguished New Hampshire preacher. They first appeared in New York City in October, 
1845. Though tempted by flattering offers, Simeon Pease Cheney refused to give up 
his teaching of country singing classes (a work shared by his two brothers). Later he 
compiled "The American Singing-Book," and collected materials for "Wood-Notes 
Wild," posthumously published, in which he records bird notes. 

2 Cf. "Franklin Evans," post, II, pp. 130, 145, 211. 

3 Later Whitman heard the Hutchinsons, both in New York and in Brooklyn, and ad- 
mired their singing very much. Cf. "Complete Prose," p. 517. 

Though there were thirteen brothers and sisters in this once famous musical family, 
Whitman probably refers to the quartette who first took New York City by storm in 
1843. They spent their summers on a New England farm, their falls and winters singing 
in New England and in New York. Later (1845) tne y went to England, Scotland and 
Ireland. (See "National Encyclopedia of American Biography.") 


earthy fragrance that comes up then in the moisture, and 
touches the nostrils more gratefully than all the perfumes of 
the most ingenious chemist. 

These hints we throw out rather as suggestive of a train of 
thought to other and more deliberate thinkers than we — and 
not as the criticisms of a musical connoisseur. If they have 
pith in them, we have not much doubt others will carry them 
out. If not, we at least know they are written in that true 
wish for benefitting the subject spoken of, which should char- 
acterize all essays. 


Public attention within the last few days has been naturally 
turned to the slave trade — that most abominable of all man's 
schemes for making money, without regard to the character of 
the means used for the purpose. Four vessels have, in about 
as many days, been brought to the American territory, for being 
engaged in this monstrous business! It is a disgrace and a blot 
on the character of our republic, and on our boasted humanity! 

Though we hear less now-a-days of this trade — of the atro- 
cious slave hunt — of the crowding of a mass of compact human 
flesh into little more than its equal of space — we are not to 
suppose that such horrors have ceased to exist. The great na- 
tions of the earth — our own first of all — have passed stringent 
laws against the slave traffic. But Brazil openly encourages 
it still. And many citizens of Europe and America pursue it not 
withstanding its illegality. Still the negro is torn from his sim- 
ple hut — from his children, his brethren, his parents, and friends 
— to be carried far away and made the bondsman of a stranger. 
Still the black-hearted traitors who ply this work, go forth 
with their armed bands and swoop down on the defenseless vil- 
lages, and bring their loads of human trophy, chained and 
gagged, and sell them as so much merchandise ! 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 1 8, 1 846. 

Cf. post, I, pp. 160-162, 171-174, II, pp. 8-10. 

Whitman's editorship of the Eagle began shortly after the death of his predecessor, 
William B. Marsh, which occurred on February 26, 1846; his connection with the Eagle 
was terminated by a "row with the boss and the party" in the latter part of January, 
1848 (on or just before January 18, as shown by references in the contemporary press of 
the city and in the style of the Eagle's pages themselves). See post, II, p. 88. Except 
for a few special contributions, Whitman did all the editorial writing for the Eagle. 
(See post, I, p. 116.) The authorship of the selections here reprinted is therefore easily 


The slave-ship ! How few of our readers know the beginning 
of the horrors involved in that term ! Imagine a vessel of the 
fourth or fifth class, built more for speed than space, and there- 
fore with narrow accommodations even for a few passengers; a 
space between decks divided into two compartments, three feet 
three inches from floor to ceiling — one of these compartments, 
sixteen feet by eighteen, the other forty by twenty-one — the 
first holding two hundred and twenty-six children and youths of 
both sexes — the second, three hundred and thirty-six men and 
women — and all this in a latitude where the thermometer is at 
eighty degrees in the shade! Are you sick of the description? 
O, this is not all, by a good sight. Imagine neither food nor 
water given these hapless prisoners — except a little of the latter, 
at long intervals, which they spill in their mad eagerness to get 
it; many of the women advanced in pregnancy — the motion of 
the seas sickening those who have never before felt it — dozens 
of the poor wretches dying, and others already dead (and they 
are most to be envied!) — the very air so thick that the lungs 
cannot perform their office — and all this for filthy lucre ! Pah ! 
we are almost a misanthrope to our kind when we think they 
will do such things! 

Of the 900 negroes, (there were doubtless more,) originally on 
board the Pons not six hundred and fifty remained when she 
arrived back, and landed her inmates at Monrovia! It is 
enough to make the heart pause its pulsations to read the scene 
presented at the liberation of these sons of misery. — Most of 
them were boys, of from twelve to twenty years. What woe 
must have spread through many a negro mother's heart, from 
this wicked business! 

It is not ours to find an excuse for slaving, in the benighted 
condition of the African. Has not God seen fit to make him, 
and leave him so? Nor is it any less our fault because the 
chiefs of that barbarous land fight with each other, and take 
slave-prisoners. The whites encourage them, and afford them 
a market. Were that market destroyed, there would soon be 
no supply. 

We would hardly so insult our countrymen as to suppose 
that any among them yet countenance a system only a little 
portion of whose horrors we have been describing — did not 
facts prove the contrary. The "middle passage" is yet going 
on with all its deadly crime and cruelty. The slave-trade yet 
exists. Why? The laws are sharp enough — too sharp. But 


who ever hears of their being put in force, further than to con- 
fiscate the vessel, and perhaps imprison the crews a few days? 
But the laws should pry out every man who helps the slave- 
trade — not merely the sailor on the sea, but the cowardly rich 
villain and speculator on the land — and punish him. It cannot 
be effectually stopped until that is done — and Brazil forced by 
the black muzzles of American and European men-of-war's can- 
non, to stop her part of the business too! 


We are going to say some bold truths! We are going to 
dash at once into the impassioned errors of probably four out 
of every five who will read this article. 

— If ever the present system of criminal law, and of the treat- 
ment of criminals, offered an instance of one of its fruits, that 
instance is the precocious monster Freeman — the butcher of five 
human beings last week in Cayuga co., in this state — as we have 
already published the dark and dreadful narrative. Reader! 
you may meet such a remark as the foregoing with a scowl, or 
an impatient jibe — but if we are not, in our own mind, clear in 
its truth, may we never get sight of Heaven hereafter! 

The present excited state of public feeling will, of course, 
lead the representatives of society in due time to paddle in his 
blood, as he in that of his victim's. The murder will surely be 
revenged. We can therefore do no harm by seizing the occasion 
to draw as profitable a lesson as we may from the whole case. 
It is no inviting task; but few tasks are inviting. 

— Let us examine somewhat of the murderer's life: 

So far as anything can be gathered from the facts brought to 
light, Freeman seems to be an uneducated, friendless outcast. 
He has never had the benefit of any kind of teaching or counsel; 
and never lived within any fixed moral or religious influences. 
His whole character is of the most blindly brutal cast — a mere 
human animal. At the early age of nineteen, he is accused of 
a crime of which he says he is not guilty, and, through the in- 
fluence of Mr. Van Ness, is sent to the State Prison for five years. 
Now consider how few of better fortune, even of virtuous and 
religious character, would not deeply feel the wrong and injus- 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 23, 1 846. 
Cf. infra, pp. 97-103; post, II, pp. 15-16. 


tice of such proceedings, and be roused to the fiercest hate against 
those who had been instrumental in bringing them to it. How 
much more terrible the effect then on this neglected, ignorant 
and depraved negro, in whom the brute had been allowed to rule 
the man. 

For five long and weary years he is shut up in prison, and 
left to brood over his wrongs. He can make no distinction be- 
tween the inevitable mistakes of the law and human testimony, 
and what he imagines is a determination to crush him. He 
thinks only of his laborious imprisonment day after day, month 
after month, till it has taken possession of all his thoughts; and 
the purpose of revenge, which to him is justice, has become to 
him the very breath of life. If society had dealt tenderly with 
him during this awful period; if some ministering angel 1 had 
come and heard his sorrowful story, and sought to bring him 
under kindly influences, and taught him the beautiful Christian 
law, "Love your enemies; bless those who curse you;" if this 
had been done, he might have been saved, and his victims been 
still in the midst of the living. 

But this was not done. The neglected wretch was left to his 
fate, left to be haunted by his foul passions, and at last to 
be turned out to do their own bidding without a word of warn- 
ing, or one friend to guide or bless. Is it a matter of wonder, 
then, that the result is what we have seen? Is it strange that 
the wild beast prevailed? 

That the wretch had worked himself into a terribly calm and 
blind ferocity appears from the whole account of the murder. 
The idea of revenge seems to have swallowed up all things else. 
He seems to have become perfectly bewildered and blinded by 
his purpose of blood. He not only strikes the object of his spite, 
the man who did him the supposed wrong, but indiscriminately, 
as though running the bloody muck. With a frightful coolness, 
he plunges his knife into all whom he meets, sacrificing guilty 
and innocent alike. He destroys those who never did him harm, 
whom he never saw, and against whom he could have had no 
possible hatred or ill-feeling! This very horror of the butchery 
shows how thoroughly diseased and confused the whole moral 
being of the murderer had become. 

— What remains then ? Hang him. In the work of death, let 
the law keep up with the murderer, and see who will get the 
victory at last. Homicides are increasing in every part of the 

*Cf. infra, pp. 8.3-86. 


land. We are amazed that the gallows don't stop 'em. Let its 
advocates not be backward, however. Let them stick it out 
staunchly and kill and slay the faster — and, even if the more 
they hang the more they prepare to hang, let them keep it up 
still— for is not such the command of God? 1 


A Chapter for the First of April. 

Aha! this is all Fool's day, is it? What right or reason has 
any body to select one day from the whole year, and give it 
such a name? Just as if our world was weak and wicked a 
three hundred and sixty-fifth fraction of its existence only. 
Why, sirs, the rule should run the other way altogether. If 
there were a day of universal common sense all over the earth, 
that would indeed be something wonderful. The great axis 
would cease in its revolutions in dismay and confusion, at any- 
thing of that kind ! 

But we must not run off in this manner. 

We salute you, Fools! The time is yours; politeness demands 
that you should have the compliments of the season; and we are 
going to give up to your services a part of one of our columns. 
And as your name is legion, it were well to pick out the few 
among you who, standing prominently forward, are entitled to 
the first benefit of our courtesy. 

The sour tempered grumbler at humanity, and at this beau- 
tiful earth which the good God has made so well — the man 
whose actions sing "love not," forever, though his mouth sings 
not at all — he is one to whom this day is most particularly 
dedicated. He will not smile, not he; but he will snarl and 
snap — the tart vinegar fellow! He will not bless the bright 
sunshine, and the fragrant flowers, and the innocence of young 
children, and the soothing wind that brings health and vigor. 
No, no. He plods discontentedly along. He sees but the bad 
that is in his fellow creatures; he has sharp eyes for every stum- 
bling block, and quick ears for every discord, (a harmony to the 
hearing largely tuned,) 3 in the great anthem of life. Weak; 

1 Q f . infra, p. 103. 

2 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April I, 1846. 

3 This would seem to argue that Whitman's theory of evil had already been formulated. 
Cf. post, I, p. 231. 


miserable one! Wilt thou walk through the garden, and per- 
versely prick thy hand with the thorns, and put thy nose only to 
the scentless blossom, while all around thee is so much goodly 
roses, and ever fresh verdure, and sweets budding out per- 
petually? Wilt thou cast thy glance morosely on the ground, 
and never toward that most excellent canopy, the cloud-draped 
and star-studded sky above thee ? 

Ah, open thyself to a better and more genial philosophy, 
Fool. There are griefs and clouds and disappointments, in 
the lot of man; but there are comforts and enjoyments too. 1 
And we must glide aside by the former smoothly, and hold fast 
to the latter, and foster them, that like guests treated hospi- 
tably, they may come again, and haply take up their abode with 
us. It is habit, after all, that makes the largest part of the dis- 
contents of life. Fight against that wicked habit, Fool, that 
thou may'st be a happier man, and not be thought of si- 
multaneously with the First of April. 

— And you, sir, with the muck-rake — you feverish toiler and 
burro wer for superfluous wealth 2 — you must not be forgotten, 
either. Cease your weary application, an hour or two — for 
your class should hold high revel, to-day. No ? you have houses 
to build, and accounts to compute, and profits to reap? But, 
man, you already own houses enough; and the profits of your 
past labor warrant the ample competence of the future. Still, 
argue you, business engages all your time — must occupy it? 
Oh, Fool! The little birds, and the sheep in the field, possess 
more reason than thou; for when once their natural wants are 
satisfied, they repose themselves and toil no more. 3 The lambs 
gambol. The birds sing, in joy and gratitude, as it were, to the 
good God; and you will do nothing but plod, and plod. Go to, 
Fool! It is not well to labor in servile offices, while the great 
banquet is spread in many princely halls, and all who would 
partake are welcome. 

— Gently turn we to another band of the erring mortal. Gently: 
For guilt, though often tough, to an iron hardness, cannot be 
bettered by other hardness — by stern vindictive punishment, 4 
and angry reproof. Apart and by themselves — in silence and 

1 c f- in fra, pp. 78-83- ' Of. infra, pp. 37-39; post, I, pp. 123-125, 245; II, pp. 63, 67. 

3 Such a paraphrase of the Bible as this suggests a probable source of Whitman's 
inspiration in the moral didacticism with which the Eagle editorials are replete; and it also 
helps to account for his prophetic role's assuming so decidedly religious a form. See post, 
II, pp. 91-92. 

4 Cf. infra, pp. 97-103, 108-110. 


tears — with repentance, and vows of reformation, should the 
doers of crime keep this day. No taunt or insult of their more 
fortunate brethren should come to deepen their oppressive sad- 
ness. But the words of encouragement and sympathy should 
come — the friendly glance such as the Pardoner himself dis- 
dained not to throw on sin and sinners — the thought of the frail- 
ness of mortality, and its self-retrieving strength, also, these, like 
good spirits, should surround the sons and daughters of vice 
and cheer them to the working out of a better heart. 
— Nor must we forget the political fool — the unbeliever in hu- 
man goodness and progress, and worth: nor the little manceuvrer 
and plotter who is mighty in bar-rooms, and blusters loudly with 
the sacred names of towering ideas — which are to him but the 
base counters to pass away in exchange for food for his own silly 
and selfish ambition. He is truly a foolish Fool, and ofttimes 
inoculates others with the contagion. 

— And as we must stop in the category somewhere — long as the 
list could be made — we wind up with that multitude, (if it be not 
a bull to say so,) of single fools, the bachelors and maids who are 
old enough to be married — but who, from appearances, will 
probably "die and give no sign." 1 If seizing the means of the 
truest happiness — a home, domestic comfort, children, and the 
best blessings — be wisdom, then is the unmarried state a great 
folly. There be some, doubtless, who may not be blamed — 
whom peculiar circumstances keep in the bands of the solitary; 
but the most of both sexes can find partners meet for them, if 
they will. 2 Turn Fools, and get discretion. Buy candles and 

1 Cf. " He dies, and makes no sign " (" King Henry VI," Pt. i, III, 3, 29). 

J Such a passage is perplexing rather than illuminating; for, though it clearly shows that, 
previous to Whitman's first Southern journey, he strongly approved of marriage as an 
institution and the married state as an avenue to happiness, we cannot be sure that the 
writer is Whitman the man instead of Whitman the philosophizing editor, nor can we be 
sure that, if this be a personal revelation, it was not qualified by the prophetic inspira- 
tion which descended upon the poet about 1847. Moreover, does he excuse himself 
along with the individuals whom "peculiar circumstances keep in the bands of the 
solitary"? If so, what were the peculiar circumstances alluded to — the mere inability 
to find a mate or something in his emotional nature which made it unlikely that he would 
ever find a mate ? (See infra, pp. lxix-1, 92.) That the latter may have been the case seems 
a little more probable when the final appeal to the bachelors is made, for this appeal 
is based, not on romantic or hedonistic grounds, but on the duty to "do the state some 
service," an appeal which is made very prominent in "Children of Adam." An undated 
scrap of Whitman manuscript, owned by Mr. Alfred Goldsmith, records the following 
melancholy query: "Why is it that a sense comes always crushing on me, as of one hap- 
piness I have missed in life? and one friend and companion I have never made?" How- 
ever, the passage in the text above is too ambiguous to be very valuable as evidence 
either way, when taken by itself. (See infra, p. 48, note I.) 


double beds; make yourself a reality in life — and do the state 
some service. 

We cease; even though yet but on the first leaf of the ponder- 
ous catalogue. And if in the wild spirit of the day, we have ex- 
pressed our fancies in defiance of the sober methods of editors, 
let us find our license amid the wide privileges of the First of 
April — or, if it please you better, sweet madam, or good sir, jot 
us down as one who himself, by good right, deserves a patch o' 
the motley. 



The flowers! the sweet and beautiful flowers, are beginning 
now to bud forth and bloom ! With the first mildening of the 
air came the proud camelia, in all its simple splendor of pure 
red, or unmottled white. We saw it weeks ago on the stands, 
and in the parlor windows, as we passed along, with its glossy 
clean leaves, and its peculiar aristocratic bend, as if conscious 
that it should be the queen of all the tribe of grace. The waxe 
like [wax-like] precision of its delicate blossom-leaves, and the 
early greeting it gives us, of all flowers of the year, make it one 
of our chosen favorites. 

And the oriental-looking cactus is out too, with its innumer- 
able points, like the turrets of sojne old gothic architecture. 
And the azalia, likewise, one of the sisters of the April circle. 
But the perennial blooming rose, the beautiful one! ah, it 
comes like a loved child's smiling face, that greets us daily 
and grows into our hearts deeper and deeper through the pass- 
ing time. In summer and winter blooms the good rose — in the 
severity of the latter season, requiring, of course, to be sheltered 
with a kindly hand from the cold kiss of the snows and frosts. 
Blessings on the fragrant Daughter of the Morning Clouds! 
It is the choice and cherished blossom of our variable clime. 
In its plenty and luxuriance, it spreads by the sides of the fields 
in the country, and repays the slightest care of the gardener. 
Without the good rose, we were to lose much of the loveliness 
that covers the surface of our northern earth. 

And should we forget the humble, and modest, — the sweet 
downward-hidden violet? Timid as a soft-eyed babe, it nestles 

»From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April o, 1846, 


its face in the breast of Earth, its mother! Flower of the 
faint sweet perfume, and the purple blush! we pluck thee 
never — but love to bend down and part carefully away the 
grass leaves, and inhale thy fragrance — but ever place back 
around thee thy bolder friend, and leave thee then unharmed. 
Ah, there, is to us a deep sacred charm in humility! And is it 
not so to all? — How wicked the heart that can, in the black 
corruption of its selfishness, outrage that charm, and bruise the 
innocent weakness of a modest fragile one! 

The heath-blossom and the blue-bell, too, exhibit their col- 
ored tints to the sun, and draw back again life and vigor from 
his smiles. And the geranium, that sweet among the sweetest, 
opens its little red buds, and fills the air with the refreshing 
scent of its lemon-smelling leaves. Nor are there wanting other 
manifestations of the bounty of the good Father above; but on 
these we forbear now to expatiate. 

If you have none of these silent orators of devotion about 

you, gentle reader, go forthwith and procure them, and place 
them where you will see them every day. Their mute mouths 
are a perpetual hymn to the holy God — and it were well for you 
to listen to them. Miss Bremer 1 tells us a beautiful and sublime 
thought which she learned from flowers. — In the resemblance, 
as they are widely and incessantly drawing life, beauty, and 
virtue from the sun, while yet that luminary lessens not in those 
qualities which it is constantly bestowing on other things — so the 
Almighty, the fountain of goodness, truth and all vitality, though 
throwing off that vitality and truth forever, yet stays eternally 
the same, and loses nought. 
Ah, we may learn many a fine moral from the flowers! 


We have arrayed ourselves in new apparel, and present us 
to the public with a "clean face," to-day — as per the current 
paragraph, and all after it! We might say a great deal, here- 
with, about what we are going to do, etc.; but we think it about 
as well to "let our acts speak for us." We shall do as well as 
we can; and our journal will be "devoted" to — what is put into 

i], I, p. ia8. 

2 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 1, 1846. 


The democratic party of Brooklyn should {and do) hand- 
somely support a handsome daily paper. — For our part, too, we 
mean no mere lip-thanks when we say that we are truly con- 
scious of the warm kindness with which they have always treated 
this establishment. To those in Brooklyn who, not taking a 
daily local print, feel inclined to subscribe to one, we respect- 
fully suggest that they " try us," now. If at the end of a fort- 
night, or month, they don't think they get the worth of their 
money, we will cheerfully mark them off again. We really feel 
a desire to talk on many subjects, to all the people of Brooklyn; 
and it ain't their ninepences we want so much either. There 
is a curious kind of sympathy (haven't you ever thought of it 
before?) that arises in the mind of a newspaper conductor with 
the public he serves. He gets to love them. Daily communion 
creates a sort of brotherhood and sisterhood between the two 
parties. As for us, we like this. We like it better than the 
more "dignified" part of editorial labors — the grave political 
disquisition, the contests of faction, and so on. And we want 
as many readers of the Brooklyn Eagle — even unto the half of 
Long Island — as possible, that we may increase the number of 
such friends. For are not those who daily listen to us, friends? 
— Perhaps no office requires a greater union of rare qualities than 
that of a true editor. No wonder, then, that so few come under 
that flattering title ! No wonder that we are all derelict, in some 
particular! In general information, an editor should be com- 
plete, particularly with that relating to his own country. He 
should have a fluent style: elaborate finish we do not think 
requisite in daily writing. His articles had far better be earnest 
and terse than polished; they should ever smack of being uttered 
on the spur of the moment, like political oratory. — 1 In temper, 

1 This statement of Whitman's editorial creed, made shortly before he did the first 
known writing on " Leaves of Grass," was in part, perhaps unconsciously, transferred 
to his poetic work. But in the matter of polish, he seems to have come to see the weak- 
ness of his position, in regard to both editorial writing and poetic composition. In an 
editorial in the Brooklyn Daily Times (January 25, 1858) under the heading "Wanted, 
A Critic," he writes: 

"We never glance over our own columns or those of our contemporaries without 
wishing that some monarch of journalism would arise, and hold all the small fry of the 
profession to a rigid accountability in regard to the style and grammar of their manifold 
effusions. . . . How much of the turbid bombast and buncombe of political speak- 
ers might be choked in the utterance, if the newspapers would only conform themselves, 
and compel others to conform, to a stern and rigid rectitude of expression. . . . 

"We firmly believe that a loose and ungrammatical style leads to heterodoxy of senti- 
ment — that the writer who would deliberately infringe the rules of composition would 
not long hesitate attempting to make the worse appear the better reason. 

". • • . The Evening Post i$ perhaps the model journal as regards its rhetoric 


Job himself is the lowest example he should take. And even 
that famed ancient, we trow, cannot be said to have achieved 
the climax of human endurance — since types and printing 
presses were not in vogue at his era. An editor needs, withal, 
a sharp eye, to discriminate the good from the immense mass of 
unreal stuff floating on all sides of him — and always bearing 
the counterfeit presentment of the real. This talent is so rare 
that many newspapers have built up quite a reputation on the 
merit of their selections 1 alone. Here, in this country, most 
editors have far far too much to do} to make good work of what 
they do. Abroad, it is different. In London or Paris, the pay- 
ment for a single "leader" is frequently more than the month's 
salary of the best remunerated American editor. Crowding 
upon one individual the duties of five or six, is, indeed, the 
greatest reason of all why we have in America so very few daily 
prints that are artistically equal to the European ones. Is it 
not astonishing, then — not that the press of the United States 
don't do better, but that it don't do worse? 

With all and any drawbacks, however, much good can al- 
ways be done, with such [a] potent influence as a well circulated 
newspaper. To wield that influence, is a great responsibility. 
There are numerous noble reforms that have yet to be pressed 

but it circulates only among the classes who stand least in need of an instructor. . . . 
The slovenliness of journalistic composition reacts with tenfold effect upon public speak- 
ers. We have sat in the Board of Education and listened to the grossest errors of utter- 
ance, such as 'It don't matter' — 'I was a-going to propose' — 'I motion that,' etc., 
until our fingers have tingled with the desire to box the speakers' ears, and set them at 
the bottom of the lowest classes, instead of placing them at the head of school affairs." 

1 This refers to the miscellany of copied poetry and prose, occasionally including a 
serial story such as Whitman's own "Fortunes of a Country Boy" (see post, II, p. 103, 
note), which the better papers of the day usually printed on the first of their four pages. 

*There is no doubt that the duties of an editor were, in the forties, both so complex 
and so bothersome as to excuse occasional carelessness in composition. But tradition 
is positive on the point that Whitman, for his part, was so alive to the danger of having 
the creative part of him destroyed by the more commonplace duties of his profession 
that he usually left the office for a stroll of two or three hours, or a swim at Carey's 
Baths, in the middle of every fine day, sometimes taking a member of the office force 
with him for company. Nor are we dependent on tradition alone. The following 
brief editorial dealing with a line of city omnibuses shows where Whitman was likely to 
be found in the afternoons: ". . . After our editorial morning toils are over — 
weary and fagged out with them — we have no greater pleasure than to get into one 
of these handsome easy carriages (imagining it is our private establishment, and the 
other passengers our guests) — and drive out to some of the beautiful avenues beyond 
Fort Greene (are we to have that Park?) and there alight, and walk about — stretching 
over the hills, and down the distant lanes — till after sunset; and then walk home again 
with a tremendous appetite for supper, and limbs that invite sleep. We always find the 
carriages of the East Brooklyn line 'comfortable/ and the drivers civil and obliging." 
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 25, 1 846.) j 


upon the world. People are to be schooled, in opposition per- 
haps to their long established ways of thought. — In politics, too, 
the field of improvement is wide enough yet; the harvest is 
large, and waiting to be reaped — and each paper, however 
humble, may do good in the ranks. Nor is it a mere monoto- 
nous writer after old fashions that can achieve the good we speak 
of. . . . We shall have more to say on this theme, at a very 
early period. 


Like what we have had to-day, deserves special notice, after 
the late abominable "spell" of damp and darkness. How fair 
and glorious was to-day's rising of the sun ! All nature seemed 
glad, like a gleesome youth. The cool, clear air, with the fresh- 
ness that always hangs in it, at sun-rise, were especially grateful. 
We noticed invalids drawn out; and doubtless the Battery has 
heard the mirth of children loudly to-day. 

And the ladies! it has seemed to us in our peregrinations, 
that they look more beautiful to-day than ever before! We 
had occasion to go through a part of Broadway, in the great 
Babel over the river, about 11 o'clock. Ah, the handsome 
faces and poetical forms we were mildened by there! And 
how hot it was withal. The water-carts should be on the alert, 
such weather as this. 

On the side opposite our office, we see at this moment bevies 
of our Brooklyn belles on their way to the ferry. They have 
those lithe graceful shapes such as the American women only 
have — the delicately cut features, and the intellectual cast of 
head. Ah, woman ! the very sight of you is a mute prayer of 
peace. Without your refining presence the late sulky fit of 
weather, "wouldn't be a beginning," to the darkness that would 
spread over the earth. 


One year ago passed a noble spirit to heaven! — One year ago, 
to-day, Andrew Jackson, yielded up his life — and yielded it up 

iFrom the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 3, 1846. 

2 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 8, 1846. Whitman's worship of the hero of 
democracy was doubtless imbibed from his father, a staunch Democrat, who named one 
of his sons for Jackson and another for Jefferson. 


calmly and gracefully, and (for who shall say otherwise?) with 
the consciousness of duties well performed. "Heaven gave 
him length of days, and he filled them with deeds of glory." 
Noble! yet simple-souled old man! We never saw him but 
once. That was when we were but a little boy, in this very 
city of Brooklyn. 1 He came to the north, on a tour, while he 
was President. One sweet fragrant summer morning, when the 
sun shone brightly, he rode up from the ferry in an open ba- 
rouche. His weather-beaten face is before us at this moment, 
as though the scene happened but yesterday — with his snow- 
white hair brushed stiffly up from his forehead, and his piercing 
eyes quite glancing through his spectators — as those rapid eyes 
swept the crowds on each side of the street. 

The whole city — the ladies first of all — poured itself forth 
to welcome the Hero and Sage. Every house, every window, 
was filled with women, and children, and men — though most of 
the latter were in the open streets. The President had a big- 
brimmed white beaver hat, and his arm must have ached some, 
from the constant and courteous responses he made to the inces- 
sant salutations which greeted him every where — the waving of 
handkerchiefs from the females, and shouts from the men. 

Massive, yet most sweet and plain character! in the wrangle 
of party and the ambitious strife after political distinctions, 
which mark so many even of our most eminent men, how grate- 
ful it is to turn to your unalloyed patriotism ! Your great soul 
never knew a thought of self, in questions which involved your 
country! Ah, there has lived among us but one purer! 


A Flying Pic-nic — Greenport, &c. — God bless us all! 
what an idea! To take breakfast as usual in Brooklyn — ride a 
hundred miles — "spend the day" — and then return over the 
same hundred miles to sup at nine o'clock, where we started 
from — and all just as quietly as a man ties his neckcloth in 
the morning! Such a feat, (we flatter ourself,) is not unworthy 
of special record, even in this era of heaven-telegraphs, and 
democratic "annexation." — Yes, gentle madam — or sir, with 

*In the summer of 1833; Whitman was fourteen years old. 
2 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 27, 1 846. 


upturned nose — it is true. In far less than the mean time when 
the sun shone (or ought to have shone,) yesterday, we achieved 
the aforesaid feat. We started at half-past seven, A. m., — ■ 
went to Greenport — analyzed that pretty town, talked with the 
ladies, roamed hither and yon, dined, and did many other things 
needless to mention here. At five o'clock, p. m. (after spending 
twice as long a "day" as the Constitutional Convention has at 
any time worked, yet,) westward came we, and at nine, our boot- 
soles were duly whopping the pavement of Henry street, in this 
most pious city of churches. 

Certes, a pleasanter country town (and a stiff place, withal, 
that knows the fashions, and can tell the taste of modern French 
cookery!) than Greenport, it were a cruel task to give even 
"tricksy Ariel." 1 Going down with the L. I. R. R., you are 
dumped (the said R. R. going no farther,) on a long wharf, 
cluttered with rubbish of the most nondescript kind. After 
you have picked yourself up from the bewilderment of a jaunt 
whose rapidity has left you somewhat in doubt whether you are 
really awake, you sweep your eyes around, and lo! a few rods 
to the south, a goodly habitation, of potent dimensions, and 
flags flying — a most christian looking house, and a satisfactory 
assurance, after fifty miles of "plains" and scrub oak, that you 
are not among heathen, but will surely get you a good civilized 
dinner. As a further enlightenment, in the premises, let us 
transcribe the following card: 


Greenport, L. I. 

At the termination of the Rail Road. 

(Good Sea Bathing and Fishing). 

D. R. Fleeman, ) p 

Geo. Fleeman, J " 


To this house (if you know what's what,) you will forthwith 
transport yourself. It is a jewel of a hotel — and the dinner 
yesterday is "not to be beat," we vouch for it. Mr. Fleeman 
was formerly of the Pearl street House, in New York; he has, 
at the Peconic, the fullest and finest accommodations that may 
be desired. "Some" gentlemen or families can either or both 
be " at home" there — and we recommend 'em to try it. 

The village of Greenport contains about sixteen hundred in- 
habitants. It lies handsomely, in respect to situation; and we 

1,c My tricksy spirit [Arie!]," "The Tempest," V, I, lid. 


should judge would be unsurpassable for health. Streets are 
opened in every direction. Neat new houses line them, and 
gardens, with many pretty flowers, adorn them. There are 
three churches, all in a bunch together, — Presbyterian, Baptist, 
and Methodist, under the Rev. Messrs. Woodbridge, Leech, and 
Collins. Some eleven or twelve whaleships go out of Green- 
port, which makes something of an item of business there. The 
persons largest engaged in whaling are Ireland, Wells, & Car- 
penter. There are two ship yards — Post's and Bishop's. A 
spirited competition is kept up in county trading, &c, we should 
judge from the shops. The Watchman, a weekly print, is 
published at Greenport. And besides the Peconic House (which 
is first, by all odds,) there are the Greenport House, by Mr. 
Terry, and the Temperance Hotel by old Capt. Clark. 

The beauty and the wealth of Long Island lie mostly along 
its shores, or near to them. Thus it is, that an unfavorable 
impression often results from travelling over the railroad — 
which, just beyond Jamaica, pursues the most dreary tract af- 
forded by Suffolk and Queen's co's. It cuts the immense tract 
called Hempstead Plains, and afterwards keeps a picket of 
"brush" on its sides, with little intermission, till it gets to 
Greenport. If the traveller were to go a short distance either 
north or south, almost anywhere along this tract, he would 
be quite sure to find a rich and thrifty settlement — rich in fer- 
tile acres, agricultural productions, and the comforts of farm 
life. He would also find himself contiguous either to the Sound 
or South Bay — both full of good fish, of the scaly or shelly 
order. Much of the simplicity of patriarchial times, too, yet 
prevails among the farmers of Suffolk — much of the honesty, 
besides. Even the Railroad had not yet been able to eradi- 
cate it. 1 

The farmers of Suffolk county! A sturdier faction of that 
"country's pride," which, "once lost, can never be supplied," 2 
does not exist. Our whig neighbours of the New York Tribune 
and the Brooklyn Star affect to look with sovereign contempt 
on them, we know; they point annual jokes (about election 
times,) with their "benighted" state, and so on. And yet a 
more generally intelligent race of men and women exists no- 
where, — certainly not in any of our Atlantic cities — than the 
farmers of Suffolk county. They have little parlor polish, 

l,l yV . 179; II, p. 14. 

2 From Goldsmith's "The Deserted Village." 


perhaps — that miserable paint with which a poor heart so often 
daubs itself; but they are well-informed on general topics, clear 
in their political views, and hospitable to a fault. Every body 
knows how democratic they are: and here's the rub to the whig 
prints aforementioned. We consider the wit which aims itself 
at the honest simplicity of that part of our state to be an evi- 
dence unquestionable of either a very silly brain or a very bad 

We shall remember yesterday's excursion for some time, with 
pleasure. The company was excellent — no small portion 
being ladies. A car was attached, filled with first-rate refresh- 
ments; and the obliging waiters served the passengers just as 
the latter might have been served in an ordinary public dining 
or ice-cream room. On the return, nearly every body had a 
prodigious bouquet. Take it altogether, it was creditable to 
each one engaged in getting it up — and to the L. I. Railroad Co. 
as much as any. 


He who desires to see this noble Republic independent, 
not only in name but in fact, of all unwholesome foreign sway 
must ever bear in mind the influence of European literature 
over us — its tolerable amount of good, and its, we hope, "not 
to be endured" much longer, immense amount of evil. That 
there is often some clap-trap in denunciations of English books, 
we have no disposition to deny, — but the evil generally leans 
on the other side: we receive with a blind homage whatever 
comes to us stamped with the approbation of foreign critics — 
merely because it is so stamped. We have not enough confi- 
dence in our own judgment; we forget that God has given the 
American mind powers of analysis and acuteness superior to 
those possessed by any other nation on earth. 

For the beautiful creations of the great intellects of Europe — 
for the sweetness of majesty of Shakespeare, 2 Goethe, 3 and some 
of the Italian poets — the fiery breath of Byron, 4 the fascinating 
melancholy of Rousseau, 5 the elegance and candor of Hume 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July II, 1846. 
2 For Shakespeare's influence on Whitman, see the Subject Index. 
z Cf. post, I, pp. 132, 139-141. 4 Cf. infra, p. 48, note 1. 

6 Cf. post, I, p. 243. Professor Perry has pointed out (loc. cit., pp. 52, 69, 266,277- 
280) numerous points of similarity between Whitman and Rousseau. 


and Gibbon — and much more beside — we of the western world 
bring our tribute of admiration and respect. Presumptious and 
vain would it be for us to decry their glorious merits. But it 
must not be forgotten, that many of the most literary men of 
England are the advocates of doctrines that in such a land as 
ours are the rankest and foulest poison. — Cowper teaches blind 
loyalty to the "divine right of kings," — Johnson 1 was a burly 
aristocrat — and many more of that age were the scorners of the 
common people, and pour adulation on the shrine of " toryism." 
Walter Scott, Croly, 2 Alison, 3 Sou they, and many others well 
known in America, exercise an evil influence through their 
books, in more than one respect; for they laugh to scorn the idea 
of republican freedom and virtue. 

And what perfect cataracts of trash come to us at the present 
day from abroad! The tinsel sentimentality of Bulwer is but 
a relief from the inflated, unnatural, high-life-below-stairs, 
" historical " romances of Harrison Ainsworth. As to the vulgar 
coarseness of Marryatt, 4 the dish-water senility of Lady Bless- 
ington, 5 and the stuff (there is no better word,) of a long string 
of literary quacks, tapering down to the nastiness of the French 
Paul de Kock (who in reality has perhaps more talent than all 
the others put together — malgre his awfully murderous trans- 
lations into English,) — who can say they have any qualities 
which recommend them to that wide circulation they enjoy on 
this side of the Atlantic? Let us be more just to ourselves and 
our own good taste. Why, " Professor" Ingraham, 6 and those — 
their name is legion — Misters and Madams who write tales 
(does any body ever really read them through?) for the monthly 
magazines, have quite as much genuine ability as these coiners of 
unwholesome reading from abroad! 

1 Cf. post, I, pp. 127-128. 

*George Croly (1 780-1 860), an Irish poet, clergyman, and writer of such romances as 

•Probably Sir Archibald Alison (1 792-1 867), the Scotch historian, author of "History 
of Europe during the French Revolution." 

♦Frederick Marryat (1 792-1 848), captain in the British navy and author of "Mr. 
Midshipman Easy" and other novels. 

8 Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), a literary patroness, author 
of "Conversations with Lord Byron." 

"Joseph Holt Ingraham (1 809-1 860), a sailor, a graduate of Bowdoin College, professor 
of languages in Jefferson College (Natchez, Miss.) in 1832, and a Protestant Episcopal 
rector of St. Thomas' Hall, a boy's school (Holly Springs, Miss.), after 1855. He wrote 
stories of adventure, notably " Lafitte; or the Pirate of the Gulf," and religious romances, 
such as "The Prince of the House of David," which did much to remove the odium from 
fiction reading in America. 


But where is the remedy? says the inquisitive reader. In 
ourselves we must look for it. Let those who read (and in this 
country who does not read?) no more condescend to patronize 
an inferior foreign author, when they have so many respectable 
writers at home. Shall Hawthorne get a paltry seventy-five 
dollars for a two-volume work — shall real American genius shiver 
with neglect — while the public run after this foreign trash? 
We hope, and we confidently expect, that the people of this 
land will come to their "sober second thought" upon the sub- 
ject, and that soon. 


In the course of an article on the subject of the influence of 
wealth, &c, in one of our exchange papers, we find this senti- 

Poverty — poverty, in the common acceptation of the term — is a 
thing dreaded by mankind, and is often placed among the catalogue 
of crimes. Such is the poverty that fellowships with rags and beggary. 
But there is another species of poverty, the most despicable that 
can be imagined, and more to be dreaded than all other earthly ills 
and maladies combined. We mean the poverty of soul, with which 
rich men are often afflicted, and the only poverty to be abhorred and 
despised. Men who oppress and cheat the poor — men who make 
wealth the standard of worth and respectability — men who make gold 
their god, and whose devotions consist of Dollar-Worship, are the self- 
made victims of this poverty of soul, compared to which destitution is a 
Heaven sent blessing. 

On no particular matter is the public mind more unhealthy 
than the appetite for money. The wild schemes of visionary 
men — the religious excitements of misled enthusiasts — the 
humbugs of ignorant pretenders to knowledge — the quackery 
of the thousand imposters of all descriptions who swarm through 
the land — have their followers and believers for a time; though 
the weakness which always attends error soon carries them to 
oblivion. — They glitter for a moment — swim for a day on the 
tide of public favor — and then sink to a deserved and endless 
repose. But the mad passion for getting rich does not die away 
in this manner. It engrosses all the thoughts and the time of 
men. It is the theme of all their wishes. It enters into their 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 5, 1846. 
Cf. infra, pp. 37-39, in; post, I, p. a 4 5i n » PP- 6 3~^7- 


hearts and reigns paramount there. It pushes aside the holy- 
precepts of religion, and violates the purity of justice. The 
unbridled desire for wealth breaks down the barriers of morality, 
and leads to a thousand deviations from those rules, the observ- 
ance of which is necessary to the well-being of our people. It 
is that, and nothing else, which has led to the commission of 
those robberies of the public treasury that have in years past 
excited the astonishment and alarm of the American nation. 
It is the feverish anxiety after riches that leads year after year 
to the establishment of those immense moneyed institutions, 
which have so impudently practised in the face of day, frauds 
and violations of their engagements, that ought to make the 
cheek of every truly upright man burn with indignation. 1 
Reckless and unprincipled — controlled by persons who make 
them complete engines of selfishness — at war with everything 
that favors our true interests — unrepublican, unfair, untrue, 
and unworthy — these bubbles are kept afloat solely and wholly 
by the fever for gaining wealth. . . . The same unholy 
wish for great riches enters into every transaction of society, 
and more or less taints its moral soundness. And from this it is 
that the great body of the working-men should seek to guard 
themselves. Let them not think that the best thing on earth, and 
the most to be desired, is money. For of all the means neces- 
sary to happiness, wealth is at least a secondary one; and yet all 
of us tacitly unite in making it the main object of our desire. — 
For it we work and toil, and sweat away our youth and man- 
hood, giving up the improvement of our minds and the cultiva- 
tion of our physical nature; weakly thinking that a heap of 
money, when we are old, can make up to us for these sacrifices. 
And yet when we see the universal homage paid to the rich man, 
it appears not very wonderful that people are so greedy for 
wealth. But let us think again, of what avail or of what true 
gratification is that respect which is paid merely to money? Is 
it to win this at the last — to hear men admire — and listen to 
the deferential accents of the low — for which hundreds plod on, 
and on, and on — making that which was intended as the pleas- 
antest part of our journey here a burden or a useless waste? Is 
it to gain these ends that men fritter away the sweet spring and 
summer of their lives, sinking premature wrinkles into their 
brows, closing their hearts to the sweet promptings of nature to 
enjoy; and finding themselves, at an advanced stage of their 

*Cj. post, II, pp. 136-142. 


existence, with abundance of worldly means for happiness, but 
past the legitimate season for it? Foolish and miserable error! 
All the time of such men is devoted to their one great aim; and all 
their fear is that they may be poor. Want of wealth is, in their 
idea, the greatest of miseries. They look abroad into the 
world, and their souls seem to grasp at but one object — filthy 
lucre. . . . Now let us be more just to our own nature. 
Let us cast our eyes over this beautiful earth, where so much of 
fair joy, of pure happiness, of grandeur, of love, of sunshine, 
exist; looking on the human race with the gentle orbs of benevo- 
lence and philosophy; sending our glance through the cool and 
verdant lanes — by the sides of the blue rivers — over the busy 
and crowded city — among those who dwell far on the prairies — 
or along the green savannahs — or where the monarch of rivers 
pours his dark tide into the sea; and we shall see poor men every- 
where; and we shall see that those men are not wretched because 
they are poor; and we shall see that if they were to prove luckier 
than they have been, and were to become rich, they would not 
be better men — or happier men. And many of the most truly 
great men that ever lived have been poor — have passed their 
days in the vale — and never had their names sounded abroad 
by applauding mouths. Silent and unknown — enjoying the 
treasures of soul inherent within them — superior to the com- 
mon desire for notoriety — they have lived and died in obscure 
stations. The world heard not of them — statues were not 
built to them — nor domes consecrated to them — nor cities 
honored with being named after them. But they were never- 
theless of characters really sublime and grand: not the grandeur 
of common heroes, but the grandeur of some mighty river, 
existing in a part of the world as yet undiscovered, holding its 
broad course through untrodden banks, and its capacious riches 
not open to the world. 


By an old and excellent custom — a custom good for the 
public, for the publishers of books, and for editors of news- 
papers — new books are presented to editors, that they may 
mention the same, and thus bring them before their readers. 
A newspaper that does not give such notices is " behind the age; " 

* From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle > November 9, 1 846. 


for brief as those notices generally are, they enable a man to 
keep up with what is doing in the literary world, and to see the 
gradual steps made in the advancement of every thing. This 
is true — as any one will acknowledge after a moment's reflection; 
for he who gets no inkling of any of the new developments 
constantly made, through books (and he will get that inkling 
through honestly written book-notices,) lives quite in the Past. 
. . . The custom alluded to has another good effect also — 
it enables editors to keep up, in some sort, with the foremost 
ones of the age. For though it cannot be expected that they 
will study from top to bottom every book they have — that 
skimming tact which an editor gets after some experience, 
enables him to take out at a dash the meaning of a book — and 
his paper and his readers are invariably the gainers by it. 
An editor thus surrounded by the current literature of the age — 
by thoughts and facts evolved from master-minds, as well as 
imitators — cannot lag behind. In a thousand invisible but po- 
tent ways the result is good for his professional labors. 

As to the book-notices in this journal, we hope to say nothing 
amiss, when we say that our readers lose something when 
they lose the reading of them. They are our candid opinions; 
leaning, as we prefer to lean, to a kindly vein — as it is not our 
province to "cut up " authors. ... (A new book was sent 
to us the other day with a highly eulogistic written notice, to be 
inserted as editorial. We can't do such things.) 1 . ... It 
certainly were no compliment to the taste of Brooklynites, to 
assume that they feel no interest in literary matters. 

LYN DAILY EAGLE OF 1 846-1 848] 2 

"Arabian Nights' Entertainment" 

They bring up the loving and greedy eagerness with which 
boyhood read these tales — a love surpassing the love for 
puddings and confectionery. . . . The minds of boys 

iC/.post,??. 153,157. 

2 I believe it safe to say that Whitman reviewed more books, and knew more about 
books, than any contemporary editor in Brooklyn, if not in New York, exclusive of the 
editors of the literary periodicals. It was he who introduced the literary miscellany 
into the Eagle and who first gave prominence to book reviewing through its columns. 


and girls warm and expand — become rich and generous — 
under the aspect of such florid pages as those of Robinson 
Crusoe, the Arabian Nights, Marco Polo, and the like. 
[October II, 1847.] 

"Bible, The Holy," Harper's Illuminated Edition. 

It is almost useless to say that no intelligent man can 
touch the Book of Books with an irreverent hand. [Octo- 
ber 21, 1846.] 

Boswell James: "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., In- 
cluding a Journal of a Tour of the Herbrides", Croaker, 
John Wilson, ed., in two volumes. 

We are no admirer of such characters as Dr. Johnson. 
He was a sour, malicious, egotistical man. He was a 
sycophant of power and rank, withal; his biographer nar- 
rates that he "always spoke with rough contempt of pop- 
ular liberty." His head was educated to the point plus, 
but for his heart, might still more unquestionably stand 

In the course of two years he quoted from nearly a hundred more or less well-known 
authors and reviewed more than a hundred other books. In some cases, he merely 
glanced at preface and table of contents; in other cases he skipped through the volume; 
but good books sometimes received more than one reading at his hands and more than 
one notice. In all cases, his library was being steadily increased. That the student 
may have a better idea of what Whitman was reading just before, and at the time of, 
his first work on the "Leaves of Grass," I append a list of the more important books 
noticed or reviewed in the Eagle: 

William Harrison Ainsworth's "The Miser's Daughter"; Anthon's 'Dictionary of Greek 
and Roman Antiquities"; Baxter's (Richard) "Life and Writings"; Robert Bell's 
"Life of the Rt. Hon. George Canning"; Berrian's "An Historical Sketch of Trinity 
Church, N. Y."; J. D. Blake's "History of the American Revolution"; William Bolles's 
"Phonographic Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language"; J. R. Boyd's "Eclectic 
Moral Philosophy"; E. L. Bulwer's "Lucretia; or The Children of the Night"; Cham- 
bers' "Encyclopaedia of English Literature"; Chambers' "Miscellany of Useful and 
Entertaining Knowledge"; A. B. Chapin's "Puritanism Not Genuine Protestantism"; 
Lydia Maria Child's "Fact and Fiction" and "Memoirs of Madame de Stael and of 
Madame Roland"; Coleridge's "Aids to Reflection"; Colman's "Juvenile Publications"; 
D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century"; J. H. Merle 
D'Aubigne's "The Protector; A Vindication"; Father P. J. DeSmet's "Oregon 
Missions"; Charles D. Desher's "Chaucer and Selections from His Poetical Works"; 
Dickens's "The Cricket on the Hearth," "The Chimes," "A Goblin Story," "A Christ- 
mas Carol," etc., in one volume; Dumas's "The Duke of Burgundy"; Duncan's "Sacred 
Philosophy of the Seasons"; Theodore Dwight's "Summer Tours"; Mrs. E. F. Ellet's 
" Rambles About the Country"; Thomas F. Farnham's "Mexico: Its Geography, Its 
People, and Its Institutions" and "Life, Travels, and Adventures in California and 
Scenes in the Pacific Ocean"; "Father Darcy"; Mrs. S. Ferrier's "The Inheritance"; 
Richard Ford's "Spaniards and Their Country"; John Foster's "The Statesmen of 
the Commonwealth of England"; L. N. Fowler's "Marriage, Its History and Cere- 
monies"; O. S. Fowler's "Physiology, Animal and Mental" and "Memory and Intellectual 


the sign minus. * * * Nor were the freaks of this man 
the mere "eccentricities of genius": they were provably 
the faults of a vile low nature. His soul was a bad one. 
[But Whitman gives Doctor Johnson a certain amount of 
credit for his "Dictionary".] [December 7, 1846.] 

Bremer, Frederika: 1 Harper's Edition of her works, containing 
"The Neighbours," "The Home," "The President's 
Daughter," "Nina," "Strife and Peace," "Life in Dela- 
cardia," etc. [Translated by Mary Howitt.] 
If we ever have children, the first book after the New Testa- 
ment, (with reverence we say it) that shall be made their 
household companion — a book whose spirit shall be infused 
in them as sun-warmth is infused in the earth in spring — 
shall be Miss Bremer's novels. We know nothing more 
likely to melt and refine the human character — particularly 
the young character. In the study of the soul portraits 
therein delineated — in their motives, actions, and the re- 
sults of those actions — every youth, of either sex, will be 
irresistibly impelled to draw some moral, and make some 
profitable application to his or her own case. [August 18, 

Bryant, William Cullen 2 

We have called Bryant one of the best poets in the world. 
This smacks so much of the exaggerated that we are half a 
mind to alter it, true as we sincerely believe it to be. But 

Improvement"; John G. Gait's "Treatment of Insanity"; Goodwin's "Lives of the 
Necromancers"; Mrs. Gore's "The Courtier of the Days of Charles II"; William 
Augustus Guy's "Doctor Hopper's Physicians' Vade Mecum"; Henry Hallam's "The 
Constitutional History of England"; Headley's "Washington and His Generals"; Henry 
William Herbert's "Roman Traitor, A True Tale of the Republic"; "Jack Long, or 
Shot in the Eye"; Douglas Jerrould's "St. Giles and St. James"; "Julia Ormond, or 
The New Settlement"; Mrs. C. M. Kirkland's "Spenser and the Fairy Queen"; James 
Sheridan Knowles's "Fortesque"; "Laneton Parsonage"; Mrs. R. Lee's "Memoirs of 
Baron Cuvier"; "Life of Christ in the Words of the Evangelists"; "Lives of Eminent 
Individuals Celebrated in American History," three volumes; Abiel Abott Livermore's 
"Lectures to Young Men"; "Locke Amsden, or The Schoolmaster"; B. C. Edwards 
Lester's "Houston and His Republic"; Benson J. Lossing's "Seventeen Hundred and 
Seventy-Six"; "Martyrs and Covenanters of Scotand"; A. Slidell Mackenzie's "Spain 
Revisited"; Mary J. Mcintosh's "Two Lives, or To Seem and To Be"; A. D. Mayo's 
"Balance" (on universalism); "Memoirs of the Most Eminent American Mechanics"; 
Thomas Miller's "The Poetical Language of Flowers"; Dr. George Moore's "The Use 
of the Body in Relation to the Mind"; Morse's "School Geography and Atlas"; Baron 
John von Muller's "History of the World" (trans, by Alexander H. Everett); Olmstead's 
"Letters on Astronomy"; Francis Sargent Osgood's "A Birth-Day Bijou"; Miss Par- 

l Cf. infra, p. 114. 2 Cf. infra, p. 115, note; post, I, p. 242, note. 


we will let it stand. * * * Moreover, there will come a 
time when the writings of this beautiful poet shall attain 
their proper rank — a rank far higher than has been ac- 
corded to them by many accomplished men, who think of 
them by no means disparagingly. [September 1, 1846.] 

Carlyle, Thomas: "Heroes and Hero Worship." 

Under his rapt, wierd (grotesque?) style the writer of this 
work has placed — we may almost say hidden — many noble 
thoughts. That his eyes are clear to the numerous ills 
which afflict humanity, and that he is a Democrat in that 
enlarged sense [in] which we would fain see more men Demo- 
crats; — that he is quick to champion the down-trodden, and 
earnest in his wrath at tyranny — is evident enough in 
almost any one page of Mr. Carlyle's writings. . . . 
We must confess, however, that we would have preferred 
to get the thoughts of this truly good thinker, in a plainer 
and more customary garb. No great writer achieves any- 
thing worthy of him, by merely inventing a new style. 
Style in writing, is much as dress in society; sensible people 
will conform to the prevalent mode, 1 and it is not of infinite 
importance anyhow, and can always be so varied as to 
fit one's peculiar way, convenience, or circumstance. 
[October 17, 1846.] 

doe's "Louis the Fourteenth"; Samuel Parker's "Journal of an Exploring Tour Beyond 
the Rocky Mountains"; Mrs. Phelps's "The Fireside Friend, or Female Student"; 
Prescott's "Conquest of Peru"; Joseph Salkeld's "Classical Antiquities"; M. B. Samp- 
son's "Rationale of Crime"; Epes Sargent's "Songs of the Sea and Other Poems"; 
Dr. Leonard Schmitz's "History of Rome"; Mrs. Sigourney's "Water-Drops"; William 
Gilmore Simms's "Guy Rivers: A Tale of Georgia"; Frederick Soulie's "Pastourel" 
and "Countess of Morion"; Alden Spooner's "The Grape Vine"; J. G. Spurzheim's 
"Phrenology"; Story's "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States"; 
Eugene Sue's "Martin the Foundling" and "The Wandering Jew"; W. C. Taylor's 
"Modern British Plutarch"; "Thornberry Abbey"; Henry Thornton's "Family 
Prayers"; Thomas Timpson's "Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Fry"; "Michael Angelo 
Titmarsh's" "Notes on a Journey From Cornhill to Cairo"; Turnbull's "Genius of 
Scotland"; Thomas C. Upham's "Life of Madame de la Mothe Guyon, With Some 
Account of Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray"; J. Van Lennep's "The Adopted Son" 
(trans, by W. E. Hoskins); Dr. von Tschudi's "Travels in Peru"; John Ware's "Memoir 
of the Life of Henry Ware, jr."; James F. Warner's "Rudimental Lessons in Music"; 
Dr. Francis Wayland's "The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties"; J. K. Well- 
man's "Illustrated Botany"; Francis C. Wemyss' "Twenty-Six Years of the Life of an 
Actor and Manager"; N. P. Willis's "Sacred Poems"; Marcius Willson's "American 
History"; Whittier's "Supernaturalism in New England." Total — ioo volumes. 

As further showing the scope of Whitman's literary information and his taste at the 
time, I have compiled the following list of authors, American and foreign, from whom he 

*, I, p. 162. 


"The French Revolution. A History." [Revised edition.] 
Mr. Carlyle's genius, as evolved in the work whose title we 
have given above, is too broad a subject, and provokes too 
many inferences, to be properly treated in one of these short 
notices. [November 23, 1 846.] 

"Past and Present, and Chartism," in two parts. 

One likes Mr. Carlyle, the more he communes with him; 
there is a sort of fascination about the man. His wierd 
wild way — his phrases, welded together as it were, with 
strange twistings of the terminatives of words — his startling 
suggestions — his taking up, fish-hook like, certain matters 
of abuse — make an original kind of composition, that gets, 
after a little usage, to be strangely agreeable! This "Past 
and Present, and Chartism," now — who would ever puzzle 
out the drift of the book from the chapter-heads? from 
such phrases as "Plugson on undershot," or "the One in- 
stitution," or "Gospel of Dilletantism"? And yet there 
lies rich ore under that vague surface. [April 14, 1847.] 

Channing, William Ellery: "Self-Culture." 

We have always considered it an unsurpassed piece, either 
as to its matter or manner. [June 28, 1847.] 

has quoted either in his Miscellany or in his Sunday Reading columns. These are in 
addition to the reviews given above. In some cases the quotations are in verse, in others 
they are in prose. Many of the quotations fill a column or less, while some are novel- 
ettes and run for several issues. The numbers in parenthesis indicate the frequency of 
quotation, except where only one extract is made. 

James Aldrich, T. S. Arthur, Honore Balzac, Miss Barrett, Park Benjamin (2), 
Blackwood's Magazine, Frederika Bremer, William Cullen Bryant (7), J. H. Bright (2), 
Lord Byron, Thomas Carlyle, William M. Campbell, J. Maria Child, M. Constant, 
Eliza Cook (6), The Dial, Charles Dickens, E. J. Eames, Thomas Dunn English, Goethe, 
John D. Godman, Theodore A. Gould (n), Mrs. Gove, Washington Irving (3), Mrs. 
Sarah J. Hale, Nathaniel Hawthorne (2), William Hazlitt, Johann Gottfried von Herder 
(4), Mrs. Hemans, George Herbert (2), Mrs. Mary H. Hewitt, Mary Howitt (5), William 
Howitt, Thomas Hood (2), Oliver Wendell Holmes (2), William Henry Cuyler Hosmer, 
R. Hoyt, Leigh Hunt (3), Victor Hugo (2), Mrs. C. M. Kirkland, Karl Theodor Korner, 
Friedrich Wilhelm (?) Krummacher, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (22), Samuel Lover 
(4), James Russell Lowell (2), Charles Mackay, Thomas Mackellar, Jean Francois Mar-< 
montel (2), R. M. Milnes, Miss Mitford, William Motherwell, Mrs. Norton, Joseph A. 
Nunes, Susan Pindar, Edgar Allan Poe, "Jean Paul" Richter, William Rogers, Epes 

Sargent (2), Schiller, Mrs. Sedgewick, Mrs. Sigourney (6), Simpson (a traveller), Mrs. 

Seba Smith, Mrs. Southey, Alfred B. Street, Charles Swain (2) J. B. Taylor, T. B. Thayer 
Thompson, Albert Tracy, Johann Ludwig Uhland (2), Heinrich Voss, John Green- 
leaf Whittier (6), N. P. Willis (2), Johann Heinrich Daniel Zschokke (2). Total— 75 

Some of the book reviews given here in brief excerpts may be found in full in " The 
Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 260 fi\, passim. 


Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: "Letters, Conversations, and 

Indeed anything relating to Coleridge — that legitimate 
child of imagery, and true poet — will for many years yet 
be interesting. [February 20, 1847.] 

" Biographia Literaria," in two volumes. 
To a person of literary taste, the first pleasure of reading 
any thing written by Coleridge will be, that it is written in 
such choice and unaffected style — next that the author evi- 
dently lays open his whole heart with the artlessness of a 
child — and next that there is no commonplace or cant. 
These are exceedingly rare merits, at the present day. 
. . . "Biographia Literaria" will reach the deepest 
thoughts of the " choice few" among readers who can appre- 
ciate the fascinating subtleties of Coleridge; and both vol- 
umes will be entertaining to the general reader, from their 
fund of anecdote, and the good humor that will rise to 
the surface even of such a poetical nature as that child of 
song's. In some respects we think this man stands above 
all poets: he was passionate without being morbid — he was 
like Adam in Paradise, and almost as free from artificiality. 
[December 4, 1847.] 

Dixon, Dr. Edward H.: "Woman and Her Diseases, From the 
Cradle to the Grave." 

"To the pure all things are pure" is the not inappropriate 
motto of this work: and the mock delicacy that condemns 
the widest possible diffusion among females of such knowl- 
edge as is contained in this book, will receive from us no 
quarter. Let any one bethink him a moment how rare is 
the sight of a well-developed, healthy, naturally beautiful 
woman: let him reflect how widely the customs of our 
artificial life, joined with ignorance of physiological facts, 
are increasing the rarity (if we may be allowed such an 
approach to a bull,) — and he will hardly dispute the neces- 
sity of such publications as this. [March 4, 1847.] 

Dumas, Alexander: "The Count of Monte-Christo. " 

[Whitman mentions this but has not read it; in Dumas's 
earlier works he finds "a pleasant gracefulness and vivac- 
ity."] [September 30, 1846.] 



We like this better as a story, than the foregoing, by the 
same author [" Diana of Meridor"]. Indeed, we think there 
are not many books, of its scope, with superior interest. 
[April 14, 1847.] 


"Memoirs of a Physician" 

* * a wild, hurrying, exciting affair; full of its author's 
characteristics. [May 31, 1847.] 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo 1 

* * * one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's inimitable lectures 
[that on "Spiritual Laws," which he quotes]. [December 
15, 1847.] 

Fuller, Margaret: "Papers on Literature and Art." 

[Though some treat with supercilious contempt such works 
when essayed by women] we are not thus disposed. W T e 
think the female mind has peculiarly the capacity, and 
ought to have the privilege, to enter into the discussion of 
high questions of morals, taste, &c. We therefore welcome 
Miss Fuller's papers, right heartily. [November 9, 1846.] 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von: "The Autobiography of 
Goethe." [Third and Fourth Parts; translated by Parke 
Godwin.] 2 

The truthful truthfulness which characterizes its revelations 
is especially refreshing, for in these days there is an im- 
mense contagion of affected truthfulness, beyond all bearing, 
and nauseous to an extreme, general as it is! We like 
Goethe's autobiography because it throws off quite all of 
this affectation, and writes as an intelligent man would 
write to a refined and sincere friend. [June 28, 1 847.] 

Guizot, Francois: "History of the English Revolution of 
1640," in two volumes. 

Here is one of the really valuable books of the age. [But 
Whitman has not read it thoroughly "as yet."] [March 
5, 1846.] 

l Cf. post, II, pp.53-54. 
*, I, pp. 139-141. 


Hazlitt, William: "Napoleon Bonaparte." 

This masterpiece of style, earnestness, clearness, and 
spirit — this best (to our notion) of all the histories of the 
great "soldier of fortune". . . . We have on a former 
occasion 1 expressed, more fully, our opinions of the de- 
mocracy of this work. [April 2, 1847.] 

Ho witt, Mary: "Ballads." 

Among the Brooklyn Eagle s most favored favorites stands 
the sweet authoress of these poems! [February 2, 1847.] 

Irving, Washington: 2 "Life and Voyages of Christopher 
Columbus." [Abridged edition.] 

Our poor commendation is not needed for any writings of 
such a man as Irving. [March 12, 1847.] 

Keats, John: "Poetical Works," in two volumes. 

Keats — peace to his ashes — was one of the pleasantest of 
modern poets, and, had not the grim monster Death so 
early claimed him, would doubtless have become one of the 
most distinguished. [March 5, 1846.] 

Lamb, Charles 3 

* * * the pleasant Elia, the delicate-humored. [Feb- 
ruary 13, 1847.] 

Lamartine, Alphonse: "History of the Girondists." 

* * * it is, we think we can say, the most dramatic work 
we ever read — too dramatic, perhaps, for the higher pur- 
poses of history — though its intensity of interest is in- 
creased bv the same cause. [August 10, 1847.] 

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth: "Poems," Harper's Edition. 

* * * We consider Mr. Longfellow to be gifted by God 
with a special faculty of dressing beautiful thoughts in 
beautiful words. The country is not half just to this elo- 
quent writer; an honor and a glory as he is to the American 
name — and deserving to stand on the same platform with 

1 March 15, 1847; this interesting comment on the French Revolution may be found in 
"The Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 284-287. 

* Cf. post, II, p. 5. 

»C/./>w/,II,p. 156. 


Bryant and Wordsworth. [Whitman then quotes from 
"The Rain"] as a suggestion of how the commonest oc- 
currences offer themes of great thoughts to the true poet. 
[October 12, 1846.] 
"Evangeline — A Tale of Acadie." 

And so ends the poem like a solemn psalm, the essence of 
whose deep religious music still lives on in your soul, and 
becomes a part of you. You have soon turned over its 
few pages, scanned every line, and reached the issue of the 
story, and perhaps idly regret that there is no more of it, 

"But a thing of beauty is a joy forever;" 
and we may thank Mr. Longfellow for some hours of pure 
religious, living tranquility of soul. [November 20, 1847.] 

Melville, Herman: "Omoo," in two volumes. 

* * * most readable sort of reading. [May 5, 1847.] 

Michelet, Jules: "History of France." [Translated by G. 
H. Smith.] 

Of the many standard works from his pen, the history of 
France is on some accounts the best: he appears to have 
taken pride and pains in making it the fullest and clearest. 
[April 22, 1847.] 

Milton, John: "Poems," Harper's Edition, in two volumes. 
As a writer Milton is stern, lofty, and grand; his themes 
are heavenly high, and profoundly deep. A man must 
have something of the poet's own vast abruptness (if we 
[may] use such a term), in order to appreciate this writer, 
who, apparently conscious of his own gigantic proportions, 
disdains the usual graces and tricks of poets who are read 
more widely, and understood more easily, because they 
have not his qualities. The towering pile of cliffs, with 
yawning caverns in the side, the mysterious summits 
piercing the clouds, while the lightning plays on their naked 
breasts, is not, to the usual world, half so favorite an 
object as the landscape of cultivated meadows fringed with 
a little wood, and watered by a placid stream. [January 
10, 1848.] 

Raumer, Frederich Ludwig Georg Von: "America." 

[Whitman is reading it for the second time since its publi- 
cation "last summer," and rates it highly as a defense of 


American institutions.] As a turner aside of the sneers and 
falsehoods of our distant libellers, it is perhaps well that 
the work is so strong in our favor. But here at home it 
will do no harm to remember that we have not by any 
means reached perfection. The abuse has prevailed so 
thoroughly in foreigners' accounts of us, however, that 
probably the baron has allowed himself deliberately to lean 
to the other side as far as possible. Heaven bless him for it! 
and heaven bless him, too, for his imperturbable good tem- 
per, which spreads through all he writes! [October 8, 

Ruskin, John: "Modern Painters," first American edition. 

It is indeed worthy of the reading of every lover of what 
we must call intellectual chivalry, enthusiasm, and a high- 
toned sincerity, disdainful of the flippant tricks and petty 
arts of small writers. [July 22, 1847.] 

"Sand, George": 1 "The Journeyman Joiner." [Translated by 
George Shaw.] 

That Madame Sand's works are looked upon by a portion of 
the public, and of critics, with a feelingof great repugnance, 
there is no denying. But the talented French woman is 
nevertheless one of a class much needed in the world — 
needed lest the world stagnate in wrongs merely from pre- 
cedent. We are fully of the belief that "free discussion," 
upon any subject of general and profound interest, is not 
only allowable, but in most cases desirable. And this is all 
we have to say to those who put Madame Sand's books 
down by a mere flourish of prejudice. . . . The 
"Journeyman Joiner" is a work of very great interest as a 
story. Indeed we know of few that are more so. [Sep- 
tember 27, 1847.] 

Schlegel, Frederick Von: "The Philosophy of Life and 
Philosophy of Language." [Translated by A. J. W. 

Disquisitions on the most solemn subjects that can engage 
human thought form the first sections of this book. [De- 
cember 7, 1847.] 

i<y. fast, II, P . 53. 


Sedgwick, Theodore: "The American Citizen; his True Posi- 
tion, Character and Duties." 
It is a noble discourse! [November 8, 1847.] 

Simms, William Gilmore: "The Wigwam and the Cabin," 
Second Series. 

Simms is unquestionably one of the most attractive writers 
of the age; and yet some of his characters — to our mind 
at least — are in exceedingly bad taste. It may be all well 
enough to introduce a "foul rabble of lewd spirits," in 
order to show that "Virtue can triumph even in the worst 
estates," but it is our impression that ladies and gentle- 
men of refinement — to say nothing of heads of families — 
would rather take the maxim upon trust than have it ex- 
emplified to them or their children through the medium 
of a picture so very coarse and indelicate in its details, as 
that drawn by Mr. Simms in his "Caloya." [But praise 
is accorded to other tales in the volume.] [March 9, 1846.] 

Taylor, Bayard: " Views Afoot." 

We have scanned them with much enjoyment. [December 
4, 1846.] 

Thomson, James: "The Seasons." 

His "Seasons" is not surpassed by any book with which 
we are acquainted, in its happy limning of the scenes it 
professes to represent; in its faculty of bringing before the 
reader the clear sight of everything in its scope. [Novem- 
ber 24, 1847.] 

Tupper, Martin [Farquhar]: "Probabilities, An Aid to 

[It] has a lofty, an august scope of intention! It treats of 
the great mysteries of the future, of God and his attributes, 
of the fall of man, of heaven and hell ! The author, Mr. 
Tupper, is one of the rare men of the time. He turns up 
thoughts as with a plow, on the sward of monotonous 
usage. We should like well to go into this book, in a fuller 
article; but justice to it would require many pages. [Feb- 
ruary 20, 1847.] 


Walton, Izaac: "The Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry 
Wotten, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. George Herbert, and 
Dr. Robert Sanderson." 

It is refreshing to peruse a style of charming simplicity, 
ingrained with a manly natural elegance. The life of gen- 
tle Izaac himself is the most interesting part of the book. 
[But Whitman finds the volume refreshing as a whole.] 
[December 21, 1846.] 


The evils and horrors connected with the payment, in this 
quarter of the country, for women's labor — sewing, book- 
folding, umbrella- work, etc., etc. — are a monotonous subject of 
complaint enough; and people are quite ready to say, It's of no 
use to write about that. But when we see how the continued, 
persevering, incessant, honest efforts at reforming any old 
abuse, by means of newspaper-writing, at last succeed, (though 
the world, which seldom looks very deeply, is apt to give the 
credit to a later agent, and heeds not where the motion was given 
and what kept it up,) we are inclined to think that in this sub- 
ject of poor pay for females' work, good results would sooner 
or later follow from the faithful adherence of the press to an 
advocacy of "the rights of women" in the matter. 2 Why, 
there are hundreds and hundreds of poor girls and women here- 
about — and not a few in Brooklyn — who suffer the most shame- 
ful impositions from those who employ them to work. These 
girls and women make from fifty cents (!) to two dollars per 
week — very few in the neighbourhood of the latter sum, how- 
ever. The price paid for making one of those heavy stout over- 
coats, such as our firemen wear, is but fifty cents, at the highest 
— and pantaloons and vests, ("slop-work") from six to fifteen 
cents! . . . What remedy for this miserable system, we 
are not prepared to suggest; but the first thing is to make the 
public aware that it is an evil — and that it sows a public crop of 
other evils. 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 9, 1 846. 

Cf. post, I, p. 233. 

*Cf. infra, pp. 116-117. In advocating women's rights, industrial as well as political, 
Whitman was an early champion of th« sex though Emerson and Greeley had both 
shown the way, to say nothing of the Transcendentalists in general. 



(a narrative the truth of whose essentials is vouched 
for by the editor of this print.) 

Some years ago, (and not many, either) an aged black woman, 
a widow, occupied a basement in one of the streets leading down 
to the North river, in New York city. She had employment 
from a number of families who hired her at intervals to cook, 
nurse, and wash for them; and in this way she gained a very 
decent living. If we remember right, the old creature had no 
child, or any near relation, but was quite alone in the world, 
and lived, when at home, in the most solitary manner. She 
always had her room and humble furniture as clean as a new 
glove, and was remarkable every where for her neatness, agree- 
able ways, and good humor — and all this at an age closely bor- 
dering on seventy. Opposite to where this ancient female lived, 
was a row of stables for horses, cabs, private vehicles on livery, 
and such like. At any hour of the day and evening, groups of 
hostlers and stout stable boys were working or lounging about 
there — and the ears of the passer-by could hardly fail to hear 
joking and laughter, and often coarse oaths and indecent ri- 
baldry. The old black woman, smoking her pipe of an evening, 
at her door on the opposite side of the way, suffered considerable 
annoyance from their swearing and obscenity. She was a 
pious woman, not merely in profession but practice, and faith- 
fully tried to worship God, and walk in the paths of duty. For 
several weeks at intervals she had noticed a barefooted young 
girl of twelve or thirteen years, strolling about, and frequently 
stopping at the stables. This girl was a deaf mute, 2 the daugh- 
ter of a wretched intemperate couple in the neighbourhood, 
who were letting her grow up as the weeds grow. With no care 
and guidance for her young steps, she had before her the darkest 
and dreariest of prospects. What under such circumstances 
could be expected of her future years, but degradation, misery, 
and crime? The old black widow had many anxious thoughts 
about this little girl, and shuddered at the fate which seemed 
prepared for her. She at last determined to make an effort in 
behalf of the hapless one. She had heard of the institutions 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 1 2, 1 846. 

'Whitman wrote another tale about a deaf mute, "Dumb Kate," "Complete Prose," 
PP- 370-37I- 


provided for the deaf and dumb, and how the sealed avenues 
of the senses are almost opened to them again there. Upon 
making inquiry, she found that in the case of her young neigh- 
bor, the payment of a certain sum of money, (two hundred 
dollars, we think it was,) would be necessary, preparatory to 
her admission into the New York Institution. Whether any 
payment was required after this, we have forgotten, but the 
sum in advance was indispensable. The old woman had got 
quite well acquainted with the child, and discovered in her that 
quickness and acuteness for which her unfortunate kind are 
remarkable. She determined to save her — to turn her path aside 
from darkness to light. — Day after day then, and night after 
night, whenever her work would permit, went forth the old 
woman, with papers and letters, to beg subscriptions from the 
charitable, for that most holy object. Among the families 
where she was known, she always succeeded in getting some- 
thing — sometimes half a dollar, sometimes two — and in a few 
instances five, and even ten dollars. But where she was a 
stranger, she rarely received any answer to her request except a 
rude denial, or a contemptuous sneer. — Most of them suspected 
her story to be a fabrication — although she had provided her- 
self with incontestible proofs of its truth, which she always car- 
ried with her. It seemed a hopeless effort, and yet she perse- 
vered — contributing from her own scanty means every cent 
that she could spare. Need we say that Heaven blessed this 
poor creature's sacred work — that she succeeded in getting the 
requisite sum, and that the girl was soon afterward placed an 
inmate of the asylum? Whether the aged widow yet lives in 
her basement, and what has happened since in the life of the 
girl, we know not. . . . — In all that we have ever heard 
or read, we do not know a better refutation of those scowling 
dogmatists who resolve all the actions of mankind into a gross 
motive of pleasing the abstract self. 


"The Auto-Biography of Goethe." Truth and Poetry: 
from My Life. From the German of Goethe, by Parke Godwin. 
Two vols. Wiley & Putnam, 161 Broadway, N. Y. 

iFrom the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 19, 1846. 


What a prodigious gain would accrue to the world, if men 
who write well would as much think of writing life, as they 
(most of them) think it necessary to write one of the million 
things evolved from life — Learning! What a gain it would be, 
if we could forego some of the heavy tomes, the fruit of an age 
of toil and scientific study, for the simple easy truthful narrative 
of the existence and experience of a man of genius, — how his 
mind unfolded in his earliest years — the impressions things 
made upon him — how and where and when the religious senti- 
ment dawned in him — what he thought of God before he was 
inoculated with books' ideas — the developement of his soul — 
when he first loved — the way circumstance imbued his nature, 
and did him good, or worked him ill — with all the long train 
of occurrences, adventures, mental processes, exercises within, 
and trials without, which go to make up the man — for character 
is the man, after all. Such a work, fully and faithfully per- 
formed, would be a rare treasure! .... This Life of 
Goethe — this famous Wahrheit una 1 Bichtung — seems shaped 
with the intention of rendering a history of soul and body's 
growth, such as alluded to. It is not full enough, perhaps; 
but it is a real history, and no man but will learn much in the 
reading of it. It (like Shakspere's writing) does not bear 
every now and then the inscription, "See the moral of this!" 
or "Behold how vice is punished!" It goes right on, stating 
what it has to say, exuberant in its seeds of reflection and infer- 
ence — though it doesn't reflect or draw the inference. 

Cf. infra, p. 132. 

This book review is selected for presentation at length not only because it is a fair 
sample of Whiman's reviewing (see infra, pp. 125-126) but also because it throws light 
upon the germination of the literary ideals which, during the next year, began to shape 
some parts of the "Leaves of Grass" (see post, II, p. 63, note). A kinship between Whit- 
man and Goethe has more than once been noted, but apparently it has not been known 
that Whitman was acquainted with the German writer before beginning his own book. 
In Doctor Bucke's "Notes and Fragments" (privately printed, 1899, pp. 105-106) is given 
Whitman's critical opinion of Goethe, together with copious notes concerning the life 
of the latter, dated January, 1856. In this, however, he confesses his inadequate 
reading of Goethe. It may have been that Goethe's "Autobiography," in the American 
translation (Whitman did not know German), introduced him to the great German ro- 
manticist. In any case, the present book review shows that Whitman was longing for 
a biographical work — whether in prose or verse seemed to matter little — which should 
express the entire man very much as his own "Leaves of Grass" set out to do. Cf. 
the following bit of off-hand criticism reported in "With Walt Whitman in Camden" 
(III, p. 159): "Goethe impresses me as above all to stand for essential literature, art, life 
— to argue the importance of centering life in self — in perfect persons — perfect you, me: 
to force the real into the abstract ideal: to make himself, Goethe, the supremest example 
of personal identity: everything making for it: in us, in Goethe: every man repeating the 
same experience." 


Mr. Parke Godwin, the translator, (assisted), deserves more 
than ordinary thanks for this labor — one long needed, for we 
are told that there has been hitherto but a miserable imperfect 
elliptical translation, published in London some time since, 
and now out of print. John Henry Hopkins, jr., of Vermont 
owns also a hand in the new translation — he having rendered 
the second volume. . . The print, paper, &c. are good. We 
notice one or two errors, however, in the text; one, for instance, 
on the 1 8th page of volume ist, which makes the great earth- 
quake in Lisbon happen in 1775. It should be 1755. 

Our readers will need no apology from us for our trans- 
ferring one or two extracts from this Auto-Biography to our 

[Then are introduced four lengthy extracts. — Editor.] 


The luscious air (mellow as a full-ripe peach) and the cloud- 
less skies, forbade any return that day (17th) to indoor avoca- 
tions. — Merely to live, (out of doors) amid such fresh and wel- 
come beauty, was enough; — but to "go to work" immediately 
after tasting it, was too much! . . . Who says Brooklyn 
is not a growing place? He surely cannot have walked lately, 
as we then walked, through East Brooklyn and South Brooklyn. 
At this present writing we think we could go and count full three 
hundred houses in process of erection in those two parts of our 
city! In Atlantic street there are several rows of noble build- 
ings, and in quite every cross street can be heard the sound of 
carpenters' hammers and masons' trowels. . . . And by 
the bye, speaking of East Brooklyn, we wonder that some public- 
spirited personage or personages do not set on foot measures for 
the construction of Churches thereabout, or even in the wide 
scope between it and Fulton street — for they are much needed 
there. There is, it is true, the New Methodist now being built 
in Bridge street, and a small but neat wooden Church (on specu- 
lation) in Prince street; but the exuberant population there re- 
quires many and large houses of worship. No person who 
walks often through that part of our city, and beholds the im- 
mense proportion of young people resident in it, but will surely 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 19, 1846. 


agree with us. West of Fulton street is well supplied with the 
most magnificent Churches, and this makes the paucity on the 
other side more apparent. 

Crossing to N. Y. at the South Ferry, (what mortal could 
wish a better-managed mode of passage than appertains to our 
Brooklyn ferries?) we lingered awhile on the Battery — that be- 
loved spot 1 — and reflected whether the new Washington Park, 
on the heights of Fort Greene, 2 would not be quite as noble a 
promenade, even without the water-front: it would have a far 
more magnificent water-view, you know. . . . Stores, and 
very handsome ones, we observed, are encroaching on the south 
side of Broadway, from the Bowling Green up to the site of the 
old Waverley House — the stretch made vacant by the fire of 
last summer. The last gaps in the line are now being filled up, 
and the New Year's callers on that route will behold not a single 
evidence of the ruin made by the "devouring element" so 
short a while since. . . . What a fascinating chaos is 
Broadway, of a pleasant sunny time! We know it is all, (or 
most of it,) " fol-de-rol," but still there is a pleasure in walking 
up and down there awhile, and looking at the beautiful ladies, 
the bustle, the show, the glitter, and even the gaudiness. But 
alas! what a prodigious amount of means and time might be 
much better and more profitably employed than as they are 

After giving a passing glance in the rooms of the Art Union, 
(a perpetual free exhibition of Paintings, Broadway, near Pearl 
St., which we advise our Brooklyn folk to visit often: it will 
cost them nothing, and there are always good things there,) we 
ascended the wide winding stair-case of the Society Library, to 
the room where Brown s Statuary is exhibiting. Mr. B. is a 
young American, and deserves well; for he shows genius and 
industry. We particularly liked two marble Bas Reliefs — one of 
the Pleiades, and another of the Hyades. (These latter "weep- 
ing sisters," by the by, seem lately to have been in the ascendant.) 
An Adonis, quite the size of life, would perhaps be considered the 
most attractive "feature" of the exhibition. Though a noble 
statue, it did not, however, come up to our (perhaps too lifted) 

1 Cf. infra, pp. 90-92. 

* Whitman never lost an opportunity to urge the preservation of the site of old Fort 
Greene as a public park. Though other newspapers in Brooklyn were interested in the 
same enterprise, none were more zealous in the cause than the Eagle, so that Whitman's 
pride in the successful results of the journalistic campaign was justified (see the letter 
from Whitman in Stephen M. Ostrander's "History of Brooklyn," 1894, II, p. 89). 


ideas of "Myrrha's immortal son". . . . Just crossing 
Broadway, (to 341) our taste for the Ideal — for the exquisite 
in form, the gracefully quaint, and the chastely gorgeous — ex- 
perienced a sort of "new development" in looking over Banks' 's 
new stock and saloon; for surely no mortal man, (except the 
proprietor himself, who seems to devote his life enthusiastically 
to it,) could ferret out, or "get up" so many superb things, 
in a super-superb style! Vases that would add wonder to the 
palaces of the Persian Shas — glitteringly grotesque mantel- 
ornaments — tiara brilliants that princesses might wear — brace- 
lets, rings, and a maze of etc.! — such are but a portion of the 
star-like things that are collected here! True Democrat as we 
are, we did like to look on shapes and things of beauty, ever. 

— The deafening flourish of trumpets and roll of drums ushered 
up the curtain of the Park theatre, just as we entered and took 
a seat amid a well-filled house, to see a counterfeit presentment 
of "The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England," (which 
is probably more Marlowe's play than Shakspere's after all.) 
And there sat the monarch so "infirm of purpose," on his throne 
— surrounded by bold barons, and all the things of the Feudal 
age! Whatever may be said of Mr. Kean's acting, the public 
owe him something for the perfection of costume, scenery, 
properties, &c. in the plays produced under his control. It is 
not to be denied that a New York audience never before had 
anything in the neighborhood of the truthfulness and appro- 
priateness which mark the present representation of King John. 
That shows something like a court, and the movements of 
royalty, and of armies. There are scores of knights and men- 
at-arms, that bring to one's mind the stamps on old English 
coins, the pictures and effigies in old Abbeys, and such like. 
And instead of the ludicrous stiffness that usually prevails on 
the stage, in such scenes, there are colloquial groupings, and all 
the adjuncts, as near as possible, of reality. . . . But what 
shall we say of Mrs. Kean's Queen Constance? a piece of artistic 
work which we shall not soon forget. We are not given to super- 
latives in these things — but if there be any perfection in acting, 
Mrs. K. evinces it in her portrayal of that widowed and crown- 
less Queen! From first to last it was a continuous stretch of 
unsurpassed by-play and fine elocution. The harrowing close 
of the third act was marked by the tears of half the audience, 
men as well as women. The character of Constance is such as 
Mrs. Kean can (and almost she only) truly represent — the fol- 


lowing bit of delivery, as she gave it, was perhaps never better 
done, on the stage. It is the rejoinder she gives to the remon- 
strances of Cardinal Pandulph and King Philip, against her over- 
whelming grief for the loss of her little son, Prince Arthur, who 
was taken prisoner by his usurping uncle: 

Grief fills the room up of my absent child, 
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me; 
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, 
Remembers me of all his gracious parts, 
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form; 
Then have I reason to be fond of grief. 
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I, 
I could give better comfort than you do — 
I will not keep this form upon my head, 
When there is such disorder in my wit. 
Oh, lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son! 
My life, my joy, my food, my all in the world, 
My widow-comfort, and my sorrow's cure! 

We must confess, though we are no admirer of Mr. Kean, 
that he, in King John, left little to be asked for more, by the 
reasonable spectator. His elocution was good, and his air and 
bearing such as became royalty. The two last acts, which de- 
pend quite altogether upon him, were deeply interesting; and 
we think the common cant hitherto about the play, that it 
"lacks dramatic effect," must pretty effectually get its quietus, 
now. The play really is full of dramatic interest — and not the 
least of it flows from its historical associations. Only the mor- 
bid appetite for unnatural strained effect can complain of want 
of interest in such a play as King John. . . . Mr. Vander- 
hoofs Faulconbridge was acting of the liveliest, heartiest, most 
refreshing sort, and gave a light grace to the massiveness of 
the rest. The young creature who played Arthur took the 
sympathies of the whole house; she played with quiet, grace, 
and modesty. 


In our prevalent system of Common School Instruction, 
there is far too much of mere forms and words. Boys and girls 
learn "lessons" in books, pat enough to the tongue, but vacant 

»iFrom the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 23, 1846. 


to the brain. Many wearisome hours are passed in getting this 
rote, which is almost useless, while the proper parts of educa- 
tion have been left unattended to. Of what use is it, for instance, 
that a boy knows the technical definition of a promontory or a 
gulf — and can bound states, as they are bounded in the book, 
north, and east, and south, and west, when he has no practical 
idea of the situation and direction of countries, and of the earth's 
different parts? Of what use is it that he can recite the rules of 
grammar, and speak off all its book terms, when he does not 
apply it in his conversation, knows not a tittle of the meaning of 
what he says, and is hourly committing the grossest violations 
of it ? Of what use is it to a child that he has " ciphered through 
the book," to use the common phrase, when he cannot apply 
the various rules to the transactions of business, and is puzzled 
by a little simple sum perhaps in the very elementary parts of 
arithmetic ? 

Unless what is taught in a school be understood, and has some 
greater value than merely a knowledge of the words which con- 
vey it, it is all a sham. In schools (as too much in religion) 
many people have been too long accustomed to look at the mere 
form — the outward circumstance — without attending to the 
reality. It matters little that a teacher preserves the most 
admirable discipline — performs all the time-honored floggings 
and thumpings and cuffings 1 — and goes through with all the old- 
established ceremonies of school-teaching — unless the pupils 
are aided in forming sharp, intelligent minds — and are properly 
advanced in the branches they may be pursuing. Without these 
follow, his education is a mockery — a make believe. The 
forms of a school are of small account, except as they contribute 
to the main object — improvement. 

The proper education of a child comprehends a great deal more 
than is generally thought of. Sending him to school, and learn- 
ing him to read and write, is not educating him. That brings 
into play but a small part of his powers. A proper education 
unfolds and develops every faculty in its just proportions. It 
commences at the beginning, and leads him along the path step 
by step. Its aim is not to give so much book-learning, but to 
polish and invigorate the mind — to make it used to thinking and 

1 Whitman had much to say in the Eagle against flogging school children, a practice 
which he appears to have avoided as a school-teacher himself. He wrote one of his 
earliest tales on the theme, "Death in a School-Room" ("Complete Prose," pp. 336- 


acting for itself, and to imbue it with a love for knowledge. It 
seeks to move the youthful intellect to reason, reflect and judge, 
and exercise its curiosity and powers of thought. True, these 
powers, this reason and judgment have to be exercised at first on 
childish subjects — but every step carries him further and further. 
What was even at first not difficult, becomes invaluable as an 
easy habit. And it is astonishing how much may be done in 
this way; how soon a child acquires, by proper training, a quick- 
ness of perception and a ready facility of drawing on stores of its 
own, that put to the blush the faculties of many, even of mature 
age. We consider it a great thing in education that the learner 
be taught to rely upon himself. The best teachers do not pro- 
fess to form the mind, but to direct it in such a manner — and put 
such tools in its power — that it builds up itself. 1 This part of 
education is far more worthy of attention, than the acquiring 
of a certain quantity of school knowledge. We would far rather 
have a child possessed of a bright, intelligent, moderately dis- 
ciplined mind, joined to an inquisitive disposition, with very 
little of what is called learning, than to have him versed in all 
the accomplishments of the most forward of his age, arithmetic, 
grammar, Greek, Latin, and French, without that brightness and 


On the Huntington south shore of Long Island is a creek 
near the road called "Gunnetaug" — and the mouth of this 
creek, emptying into the bay, is reported to be so deep that no 
lines have ever yet sounded its bottom. It sometimes goes 
by the name of "Drowning Creek," which was given to it by a 
circumstance that we will relate. It is a universal summer cus- 
tom on Long Island to have what are called "Beach parties:" 
that is, collections of people, young and old, each bringing a 
lot of provisions and drink, and who sail over early in the morn- 
ing to the beach which breaks off the Atlantic waves from our 
island's "green girt shore," and spend the day there. Many 
years ago such a party went over from Gunnetaug. They 
formed a cheerful and healthy set, full of animal spirits. They, I, pp. 148-149* 220-221; II, pp. 13-15. 
'From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle , December 16, 1846. 


bathed in the surf — danced — told stories — ate and drank — 
amused themselves with music, plays, games, and so on — and 
ranged upon the beach in search of the eggs of the sea-gull, who 
lays them in no nest except the warm sand, exposed to the sun, 
which makes a first rate natural Eccallobeon. 1 (I have some- 
times gathered a hundred of these eggs on similar excursions, 
in an hour: they are palatable and about half the size of hen's 
eggs.) The owner of the boat which carried the party over the 
bay was a young farmer who had his sister and his sweetheart 
on board. Towards the latter part of the afternoon, they set 
out on their return — and made the greater haste, as a thunder 
shower seemed to be gathering overhead. They had crossed 
the bay, and were just entering the mouth of the creek we have 
mentioned when the storm burst, and a sudden flaw of wind 
capsized the boat. Most Long-Islanders are good swimmers; 
and as the stream was but a few yards wide, the men supported 
the women and children to the banks. The young man, the 
owner of the boat, grasped his sister in one arm and struck out 
for the shore with the other. When he was within a rod of it, 
he heard a slight exclamation from the upturned boat, and 
turning his head saw the girl he loved slip into the water! 
Yielding to a sudden impulse, he shook off his sister, swam back, 
dived, and clutching the sinking one by her hair and dress, 
brought her safely to the shore. Then he again swam back for 
his sister — and for many long and dreadful minutes, beat the 
dark waters, and dived — but beat and dived in vain. The girl 

drowned, and her body was never more seen 

From that time forth, the young man's character was changed. 
He laughed no more, and never again engaged in any of the 
country jollities. He married his sweetheart: but it was a cold 
and unfriendly union — and about a year from the time of his 
sister's drowning, he began to pine and droop. He had no dis- 
ease — at least none that is treated of in medical works; but his 
heart withered away, as it were. In dreams, the chill' of his 
sister's dripping hair was against his cheek — and he would 
awake with a cry of pain. Moping and sinking thus, he gradu- 
ally grew weaker and weaker, and at last died. . . . The 
story is yet told among the country people, thereabouts, and 
often when sailing out of the creek, I have looked on the spot 
where the poor girl sank, and the shore where the rescued one 

1 A kind of incubator. 



It deserves to be remembered that education is not a thing 
for schools, or children merely. The acquirement of knowledge 
concerns those who are grown, or nearly grown, men more than 
children. Let no one suppose that when a person becomes 
eighteen or twenty or thirty years old, he is past the season for 
learning. Some of the wisest and most celebrated men, whose 
names adorn the page of history, educated themselves after 
they had lost the season of youth. They began, many of them, 
without even a knowledge of reading and writing, and raised 
themselves by their industry and study to high eminences. 
The biographies of men of science present accounts of people 
born and nurtured amid the deepest poverty and toil, with 
hardly money enough to buy a sheet of paper or the commonest 
book — who yet, by a resolute application and improving of odd 
hours, acquired learning far beyond others who were living 
in comfort and enjoying all the advantages of schools. . . . 
No period is too late to attend to the improvement of the mind. 
No station has cares so numerous, or disadvantages so great, 
but that the one who fills it may cultivate his intellect. There 
have been young men — young men whose lot it was to labor 
hard, and to possess but few aids in acquiring what they sought 
— and these same persons, thirsting for knowledge, and feeling 
how noble a thing it is to raise onesself above the level of ignor- 
ance, and equality with the low and debased, resolutely set 
themselves to work in studying — and attained distinction and 
fame in that sphere. And more than this: not only have pov- 
erty and suffering and weakness been overcome by those bent 
on advancing, but even blindness and deafness which seem to 
present unsurmountable obstacles, have not been able to stop 
the exertions of the knowledge-seeking spirit. Some of the 
greatest scholars have labored under these afflictions, and have 
surmounted them. ... To those who are just entering 
upon manhood, the paths of science present pleasures of the 
most alluring kind. If the young men of Brooklyn, instead of 
spending so many hours idling in bar-rooms, 2 and places of vapid, 
irrational un-amusement, were to occupy that time in improving 

iFrom the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 17, 1846. 
Cf. infra y pp. 144-146; post, I, pp. 220-221, II, pp. 13-15. 

2 Cf. "Franklin Evans," passim., and the sub-title of "Sketches of the Sidewalks and 
Levees," post, I, p. 199; also p. 193. 


themselves in knowledge, happy would it be for them, and the 
city too! If, instead of engaging in scenes, associating with 
companions, and haunting places, that lead them to become 
fond of gambling, that meanest and most debasing of vices — 
or of intemperance, that dreadful canker that cuts off the fair- 
est flowers and the finest fruits in the human garden, they would 
but covet the far higher and the far purer pleasures of literature, 
half the misery and guilt that generally afflict men would be 
precluded them. 


The Brooklyn Eagle wishes everybody in general, and some 
persons in particular, to understand that it considers its pres- 
ence at any public place — at any place, where it goes in its 
capacity as the B. E. — to be a special favor, a thing for the 
place and persons visited to show themselves thankful for, and 
to bless their stars for. As to the "courtesy" of gratuitous 
tickets, little gifts, (to be noticed in the paper, which notice 
brings more good to them than ten times the value of said gifts,) 
and all that sort of thing, long custom has quite staled us to the 
delicious privilege. The Eagle will always like to go among its 
friends — will always like to be generous in the bestowal of its 
favors — but it must be with the clear understanding that no 
obligation is conferred upon it. . . . These words are said 
in complete good nature — and without any special application — ■ 
but for "all future time." Moreover, when the Eagle's presence 
at a given place is wished for, it must be solicited by the polite 
means of special invitation, accompanied by ample "cards of 
admission," &c; it not being in the range of human possibilities 
or condescensions for the E. to explain at the doors of places 
that it is the E. 


When my mother was a girl, the house where her parents and 
their family lived was in a gloomy wood, out of the way from 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 22, 1846. 

Whitman attempted to live up to the high conception of the function of the news- 
paper editor outlined in "Ourselves and the Eagle," {infra, pp. 114-117); and in this 
characteristic bit of straight talk to offending readers he seeks (without complete suc- 
cess) to maintain a proportionate dignity. 

'From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 24, 1846. 


any village or thick settlement. 1 One August morning my 
grandfather had some business a number of miles from home, 
and he put a saddle on the back of his favorite horse, "Dandy," 
(a creature he loved next to his wife and children,) and rode away 
to attend to it. When nightfall came and my grandfather did 
not return, my grandmother began to feel a little uneasy. As 
the night advanced, she and her daughter sitting up impatient 
for the return of the absent husband and father, a terrible 
storm came, in the middle of which their ears joyed to hear the 
well-known clatter of Dandy's hoofs. My grandmother sprang 
to the door, but upon opening it, she almost fainted into my 
mother's arms; for there stood Dandy, bridled and saddled, but 
no signs of my grandfather. My mother stepped out and found 
that the bridle was broken, and the saddle soaked with rain and 
covered with mud. They returned sick at heart into the 
house. ... It was just after midnight, and the storm 
was passing off, when in the dreary stillness of their sleepless 
watch, they heard something in the room adjoining (the "spare 
room,") which redoubled their terror. They heard the slow 
heavy footfalls of a man walking. Tramp! tramp! tramp! it 
went — three steps solemnly and deliberately, and then all was 
hushed again. By any who in the middle of the night have had 
the chill of a vague unknown horror creep into their very 
souls, it can well be imagined how they passed the time now. 
My mother sprang to the door, and turned the key, and spoke 
what words of cheer she could force through her lips, to the ears 
of her terrified parent. The dark hours crept slowly on, and 
at last a little tinge of day-light was seen through the eastern 
windows. Almost simultaneously with it, a bluff voice was 
heard some distance off, and the quick dull beat of a horse gal- 
loping along a soft wet road. That bluff merry halloo came to 
the pallid and exhausted females like a cheer from a passsing 
ship to starving mariners on a wreck at sea. My grandmother 
opened the door this time to behold the red laughing face of her 
husband, and to hear him tell how, when, after the storm was 
over and he went to look for Dandy, whom he had fastened 
under a shed, he discovered that the skittish creature had 
broken his fastening and run away home — and how he could not 
get another horse for love or money, at that hour — and how 
he was fain forced to stop until nearly daylight. . . . 

»This homestead was near Cold Spring, Long Island. Whitman has described it in 
"Complete Prose," pp. 5-6. 


Then told my grandmother her story — how she had heard 
heavy footfalls in the parlor — whereat my grandfather laughed, 
and walked to the door between the rooms, and unlocked it, 
and saw nothing but darkness; for the shutters were closed, and 
it was yet quite a while to sunrise. My mother and grand- 
mother followed timidly, though they now began to feel a little 
ashamed. My grandfather threw open the shutters of one win- 
dow, and his wife those of the other. Then with one sweep of 
their eyes round the room, they paused a moment — after which 
such a guffaw of laughter came from the husband's capacious 
mouth, that Dandy away up in the barnyard sent back an 
answering neigh in recognition! 

Three or four days previously, my mother had broken off 
from a peach tree in the garden a branch uncommonly full of 
fruit of a remarkable beauty and ripeness. She brought it in, 
and stuck it amid the flowers and other simple ornaments on 
the high shelf over the parlor fire-place. The night before, 
while the mother and daughter were watching, three of the 
peaches, over-full in their ripeness, had dropped, one after the 
other, on the floor, and my mother's and grandmother's terri- 
fied imaginations had converted the harmless fruit into cowhide 
heels! Here was the mystery — and there lay the beautiful 
peaches, which my grandfather laughed at so convulsively 
that my provoked grandmother, after laughing a while too, 
picked them up, and half-jokingly and half-seriously thrust 
them so far into the open jaws of her husband that he was nigh 
to have been choked indeed. 


Radical, true, far-scoped, and thorough-going Democracy 
may expect, (and such expecting will be realized,) great things 
from the West! The hardy denizens of those regions, where 
common wants and the cheapness of the land level conventional- 
ism, (that poison to the Democratic vitality,) begin at the roots 
of things — at first principles — and scorn the doctrines founded 
on mere precedent and imitation. . . . There is something 
refreshing even in the extremes, the faults, of Western character. 
Neither need the political or social fabric expect half as much 
harm from those untutored impulses, as from the staled and 

1 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle > December 26, 1846. 


artificialized influence which enters too much into politics amid 
richer (not really richer, either) and older-settled sections. 1 


To him who has anything like a proper appreciation of the 
noble scope of good of which an American drama might be 
made capable, the inquiry now-a-days must often suggest itself. 
Is it not amazing that we have not before this thrown off our 
slavish dependence even in what some would call a compara- 
tively small matter of theatricals? // is full time. — English 
managers, English actors, and English plays, (we say it in no 
spirit of national antipathy, a feeling we hate) must be al- 
lowed to die among us, as usurpers of our stage. The drama of 
this country can be the mouth-piece of freedom, refinement, lib- 
eral philosophy, beautiful love for all our brethren, polished 
manners and an elevated good taste. It can wield potent sway 
to destroy any attempts at despotism — it can attack and hold 
up to scorn bigotry, fashionable affectation, avarice, and all 
unmanly follies. Youth may be warned by its fictitious por- 
traits of the evil of unbridled passions. Wives and husbands 
may see perhaps for the first time in their lives, a long needed 
lesson of the absurdity of contentious tempers, and of those 
small but painful disputes that embitter domestic life — con- 
trasted with the pleasant excellence of a forbearing, forgiving 
and affectionate spirit. The son or daughter just entering the 
door of dissipation may get timely view of that inward rotten- 
ness which is concealed in such an outside of splendor. All — 
every age and every condition in life — may with profit visit a 
well regulated dramatic establishment, and go away better than 
when they came. — In order to reap such by no means difficult 
results, the whole method of theatricals, as at present pursued 
in New York, needs first to be overthrown. — The great and 
good reformer who should with fearless hand attempt the task 
of a new organization, would meet with many difficulties and 
much ridicule; but that he would succeed is in every respect 
probable, if he possessed ordinary perseverance and discretion. 
New York City is the only spot in America where such a revolu- 

iC/.post,l, p. 185. 

'From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February ia, 1847. 


tion could be attempted, too. With all our servility, to for- 
eign fashion, there is at the heart of the intelligent masses there, 
a lurking propensity toward what is original, and has a stamped 
American character of its own. In N. York, also, are gathered 
together a number of men — literary persons and others — who 
have a strong desire to favor anything which shall extricate 
us from the entangled and by no means creditable position we 
already hold of playing second fiddle to Europe. These persons 
— most of them young men, enthusiastic, democratic, and lib- 
eral in their feelings — are daily acquiring a greater and greater 
power. And after all, anything appealing to the national heart 
of the people, as to the peculiar and favored children of free- 
dom, — as to a new race and with a character separate from the 
kingdoms of other countries — would meet with a ready re- 
sponse, and strike at once the sympathies of all the true men 
who love America, their native or chosen land. 

As to the particular details of the system which should sup- 
plant theatricals as they now exist, the one who in greatness of 
purpose conceives the effort only can say. That effort must 
be made by a man or woman of no ordinary talent — with a clear 
comprehensiveness [comprehension?] of what is wanted — not too 
great a desire for pecuniary profit — little respect for old modes 
and the accustomed usage of the stage — an American inheart and 
hand — and liberal in disposition to provide whatever taste and 
propriety may demand. 1 The assistance of writers of genius will 
of course be required. The whole custom of paid newspaper 
puffs should be discarded, entirely and utterly. 2 There is 
hardly anything more contemptible, and indeed unprofitable 
in the long run, than this same plan of some paid personage 
writing laudatory notices of the establishment which pays him, 
and then sending them to the newspapers, to be printed as 
spontaneous opinions of the editors. A person of genius, we say 
again, must effect this reform — and about genius there is some- 
thing capable of seeing its course instinctively for itself, which 
makes trifling hints, details, and minor particulars, altogether 
impertinent. Until such a person comes forward, and works 
out such a reform, theatricals in this country will continue to 
languish, and theatres be generally more and more deserted by 

»This description of the needed reformer fits well the character of Whitman himself, 
who was, it must be remembered, at this very period making earnest efforts to find a 
new instrument of song. 

*Cf. infra, p. 126, and post, I, p. 157. 


men and women of taste, (rightfully too) as has been the case 
for eight or ten years past. 


Among the "sights" of New York city — (and more frightful 
duplicates are to be feared in Brooklyn, unless we have larger 
and plentier corporation cisterns) — few possess a vivider interest 
for the time, than the public fires. Alarming as they are, too, 
there is a kind of hideous pleasure about them. 2 To ask a deni- 
zen hereabouts, if he have ever visited a fire, would of course be a 
superfluous question. But for those elsewhere, (and even for 
our own citizens,) it may not be uninteresting to have a de- 
scription of one of these sudden and sad accidents peculiar to 
large towns, that sometimes plunge happy families in the depth 
of sorrow. A season since, there was a fire in the upper part 
of N. Y., which entirely consumed twelve or fourteen houses 
inhabited by the middling class of people — and partially dam- 
aged several others; besides frightening every family for many 
squares around. I visited the place just after dark, when the 
flames, (thanks to the Croton!) had begun to be got under. 
For several blocks before arriving there, all passage was im- 
peded by squads of people hurrying to and fro with rapid and 
eager pace. Women carrying bundles — men with sweaty and 
heated faces — little children, many of them weeping and sob- 
bing, — met me every rod or two. Then there were stacks of 
furniture upon the sidewalk, and even in the street. Puddles of 
water, and frequent lengths of hose-pipe, endangered the pedes- 
trian's safety; and the hubbub, the trumpets of the engine fore- 
men, the crackling of the flames, and the lamentations of those 
who were made homeless — all sounded louder and louder as we 
approached, and at last grew to one continued and deafening 
din! It was a horrible yet imposing sight! When my eyes 
caught a full view of it, I beheld a space of several lots, all 
covered with smouldering ruins, mortar, red hot embers, piles 
of smoking, half-burnt walls — a sight to turn a man's heart 
sick, and make him tremble when he should awake sleepless in 

•From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ; February 24, 1847. 

Cf. "Song of Myself," Sec. 23, "Leaves of Grass," 1917, 1, p. 81; 1855, p. 39; also par/, 
II, pp. 278-283. 

*Cf. DeQuincey's essay, "Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts." 


the silence of the midnight. I stood off against the fire. In 
every direction around, except the opposite front, there was one 
compact mass of human flesh, upon the stoops, and along the 
sidewalks, and blocking up the street, even to the edge of where 
the flames were raging. The houses at the right hand were as 
yet unharmed, with the exception of blistered paint, and win- 
dows cracked by the strong heat over the way. I looked 
through those windows to the rooms within. The walls were 
bare and naked; no furniture, no inhabitant, no sign of life — 
but everything bearing the stamp of desolation and flight. . . . 
Every now and then would come a suffocating whirlwind of 
smoke and burning sparks. Yet I stood my ground — I and 
the mass — gazing at the wreck and the brightness before us. 
The red flames rolled up the sides of a house newly caught, like 
the forked tongues of serpents licking their prey. — It was terri- 
bly grand. And then all the noise would cease, and for a min- 
ute or two nothing would break in upon silence except the hoarse 
voices of the engineers and their subordinates, and the hissing 
and dull roaring of the fire. A few moments more, and the clat- 
ter and the clang sounded out again with redoubled loudness. 
The most pitiful thing in the whole affair was the sight of shiv- 
ering women, their eyes red with tears, and many of them dash- 
ing wildly through the crowd, in search, no doubt, of some 
member of their family, who, for what they knew, might be 
burned in the smoking ruins near by. Of all the sorrowful 
spectacles of the world, perhaps no one could be more sorrowful 
than such as this! . . . And those crumbled ashes! what 
comforts were entombed there-^-what memories of affection 
and brotherhood — what preparation, never to be consum- 
mated — what hopes, never to see their own fruition — fell down 
as the walls fell down, and were crushed as they were crushed! 
But twelve hours before, the sun rose pleasantly; and all prom- 
ised fair. The most distant idea of this misery, it entered into 
the brain of no man to conceive. Now, what a change ! People 
who commenced the day with comfort before them, closed it 
penniless. Those who had a house to shelter them at sunrise, 
at sunset owned no pillow whereon to lay their heads. Wives 
and husbands who parted in the morning with jocund words, 
met at night to mingle their tears together, and to grieve over 
blighted prospects. On the minds of many there, doubtless, 
these and similar reflections forced themselves. I saw it in the 
sombre countenances of the spectators, and heard it in their 


conversation one to another. . . . And so, elbowing and 
pushing for rods through the crowd, one at last made out to 
get where the air was less hot and stifling, and the press of 
people less intense. 


The N. Y. Sun (24th,) says, in an article against the unity of 
the United States as one government: "The liberty of the coun- 
try is centered in the independence of the states, and with a good 
understanding with each other a general government might be 
dispensed with. Our government is a union of free states, and 
not a consolidation of states. "... Our government, for 
certain purposes, is a "consolidation." The wisdom of that 
principle is proved in the past and present; but in the local 
matters of the states, this consolidation does not give congress 
the right to interfere. — Perhaps no human institution — from 
which so much clashing was expected — has ever turned out 
better, than the "separate independence" of the federal and 
state governments. With one exception, (and even that, in its 
result, only proves the sanatory powers of the consolidation,) 
they have never jarred. Each has its sphere apart from the 
other — and each keeps in its sphere. 

But the worst of such insidious articles as the Sun's is that 
they depress the idea of the sacredness of the bond of union of 
these states. That bond is the foundation of incomparably the 
highest political blessings enjoyed in the world! And the posi- 
tion of things at present demands that its sacredness should be 
recognized by every and all American citizens — however they 
may differ on points of doctrine or abstract rights. 


In the heaviness that of late years seems spread, like a 
Lethean fog, over the prospects of a high-developed drama in 
this country, there is yet but little sign of the "curtain's rising." 

x From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ; February 24, 1847. 

Cf. post, II, p. 277. 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 19, 1847. 


At the Park theatre, a new piece, "Wissmuth & Co.," l has been 
produced, but it is doubtless one of those amphibious things 
that balk the good appetite of the times for a better drama — for 
an improvement on the antiquated non-pleasant method of the 
past. . . . To-night, at the Park, Mrs. Mason 2 commences an 
engagement, playing Bianca in "Fazio" — Mr. Wheatley 3 as the 
latter character. (A morbid affair, this Fazio play, much like 
the worst of Bulwer's novels.) Mrs. M. is spoken of in high 
terms by the critics of the N. Y. press; but then there is really 
no dependence to be placed on those notices of public performers 
— they are half of the time paid for by parties concerned, and 
much of the other half is the result of favoritism. 4 . . . 
At the Olympic theatre, they are giving a run, after the old sort, 
of the popular operas, very neatly got up on a small scale; Miss 
Taylor 5 appears to-night as Zorlina in "Fra Diavolo"; (the best 
played parts at this theatre are Diavolo's two fellow robbers). 
. . . At the Bowery, Mrs. Shaw, 6 "takes" the countess in 
Knowles's 7 "Love" — a good play. At the Chatham, Yankee 
Hill 8 enacts his miserably exaggerated burlesques upon New 
England manners. ... At the opera house in Chambers 
street, they are continuing the representation of a narrow few — 

l "Wismuth and Co., or the Noble and the Merchant," a four-act drama founded on 
an old German play. With Chanfrau and Mrs. Hunt in the cast, it was nevertheless un- 
successful when produced, for the first time, on April 13, 1847. 

2 Mrs. James Mason, formerly Miss Emma Wheatley, a sister of William Wheatley, 
with whom she often acted. Whitman would probably have expressed his own opinion 
of her acting when he wrote the present essay but for the fact that Mrs. Mason was 
just then breaking a nine-year retirement from the stage. 

3 William Wheatley (18 16-1876) first appeared on the stage at the age of ten, acting 
in "William Tell" with Macready. He was a "brilliant, finished, and versatile" 
Shakespearean actor, and a successful manager, first of the Arch Street Theatre in Phila- 
delphia, and later of Niblo's Garden in New York (1 862-1 868). 

*Cf. infra, p. 1 53. 

6 Miss Mary Celia Taylor, whose "delicious voice" and ease of acting made her a 
favourite at the Olympic from 1840 to 1849, as we ^ as at tfte Bowery and elsewhere. 

6 Mrs. Shaw — later Mrs. Shaw-Hamblin — an actress in comedies and Shakespearean 
tragedy, first appeared in?America on July 25, 1 836, as Mariana in Knowles's " The Wife." 
She was from the first a favourite at the Park Theatre. She also acted, after 1839, at 
the Bowery. 

7 James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), born in Ireland; a preacher, physician, edu- 
cator, poet, dramatist, and actor. He was the author of "Virginius," "The Hunch- 
back," "William Tell," "Love," and "The Wife." 

s George Handel Hill, whose burlesque interpretation of the Yankee character was 
very popular with theatregoers, particularly his acting of Solon Shingle in J. S. Jones's 
"The People's Lawyer." He also played Jonathan Plowboy in Samuel Woodworth's 
"The Forest Rose." See Mr. Montrose J. Moses's "The American Dramatist," Boston, 
191 7, p. 50. 


those not even the second best — of the Italian operas; tonight, 
"Lucrezia Borgia." l On Wednesday night, it will be pleasanter 
to go, for then they give "Lombardi." 2 Normust we overlook the 
new musical corps, late from Havana, now giving operas at the 
Park, two evenings a week: after the next representation by 
this corps, our readers will get a plain man's opinions of 
them. 3 

We reiterate an idea often advanced by us before — a sug- 
gestion that some great revolution must take place here, mod- 
ernizing and Americanizing the drama, before it can reach 
that position among the first rank of intellectual entertainments, 
and as one of those agents of refining public manners and doing 
good, where it properly belongs. The same style and system 
of theatricals now exists that existed a hundred years ago, — 
while nearly every thing else is changed. What would be 
thought of writing novels and publishing newspapers on the 
plans that prevailed then? How long too shall we continue a 
mere inheritor of what is discarded in the old world? For the 
noble specimens in all the departments of literature which 
England has given — for the varied beauties of Shakspeare, the 
treasures of her honest sturdy old comedies, with their satire 
upon folly and vice of all kinds, — we are thankful, and would 
spread their influence for ever. Let them hold possession of 
the stage as long as may be — but not at the expense of our in- 
dependence, and by making us a set of provincial imitators. It 
is no disrespect to those glorious old pieces and their authors to 
say that God's heavenly gift of genius has not been confined 
to them and their method of development alone. We have 
here in this land a new and swarming race, with an irrepressible 
vigour for working forward to superiority in every thing. As 
yet, it is true, all seems crude, chaotic, and unformed; but over 
the surface of the troubled waters, we think we see far ahead the 
Ararat, and the olive tree growing near. The drama must rise: 
the reign of English managers and English local plays must have 
its end. 

*An Italian opera in four acts, the text by Felice Romain, the music by Donizetti. 
Champlain says this was first sung in New York in 1854; but it will be noted that Whit- 
man, writing at the time, places its first production at least as early as 1847. 

*"Lombardi Alia Prima Crociata" ("The Lombards in the First Crusade"). 

3 A promise which was not kept. 



To attack the turbulence and destructiveness of the demo- 
cratic spirit, is an old story — a tale told by many an idiot, and 
often signifying indeed " nothing" 2 save that the teller is too 
shallow to be more than a mechanical walker in the paths of 
the ignorant black past, and [to] look on those who turn aside 
therefrom as heretics and dangerous ones. Why, all that is 
good and grand in any political organization in the world, is 
the result of this turbulence and destructiveness; and con- 
trolled by the intelligence and common sense of such a people 
as the Americans, it never has brought harm, and never can. A 
quiet contented race sooner or later becomes a race of slaves — 
and when so become, there are always among them still worse 
slaves, bound mentally, who argue that it is better so, than to 
rise and destroy the tyranny that galls them. But with the 
noble democratic spirit — even accompanied by its freaks and its 
excesses — no people can ever become enslaved; and to us all the 
noisy tempestuous scenes of politics witnessed in this country — 
all the excitement and strife, even — are good to behold. They 
evince that the people act; they are the discipline of the young 
giant, getting his maturer strength. Is not this better than 
the despairing apathy wherewith the populace of Russia and 
Austria and the miserable German states — those well-ordered 
governments — endure the black-hearted rapacity of their rulers? 
We trow it is. And it is from such materials — from the democ- 
racy with its manly heart and its lion strength, spurning the 
ligatures wherewith drivellers would bind it — that we are to ex- 
pect the great FUTURE of this western world! a scope involv- 
ing such unparalleled human happiness and rational freedom, 
to such unnumbered myriads, that the heart of a true man leaps 
with a mighty joy only to think of it! 3 God works out his 
greatest results by such means; and while each popinjay priest 
of the mummery of the past is babbling his alarm, the youthful 
Genius of the people passes swiftly over era after era of change 
and improvement, and races of human beings erewhile down in 
gloom or bondage rise gradually toward that majestic develope- 
ment which the good God doubtless loves to witness. . . . 

l From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 20, 1847. 1° this volume captions enclosed 
in parentheses have been supplied by the editor when none appeared in the original text. 
Cf. post, I, pp. 259-264. 
2 C/. "Macbeth," V, 5, 26-28. 3 Cf. infra, pp. 15-16. 


It is the fashion of a certain set to assume to despise "polities' 1 
and the "corruption of parties," and the unmanageableness of 
the masses: they look at the fierce struggle, and at the battle of 
principles and candidates, and their weak nerves retreat dis- 
mayed from the neighborhood of the scenes of such convul- 
sion. But to our view, the spectacle is always a grand one — 
full of the most august and sublime attributes. When we think 
how many ages rolled away while political action — which rightly 
belongs to every man whom God sends on earth with a soul and a 
rational mind — was confined to a few great and petty tyrants, 
the ten thousandth of the whole; when we see what cankerous 
evils gradually accumulated, and how their effect still poisons 
society — is it too much to feel this joy that among us the whole 
surface of the body politic is expanded to the sun and air, and 
each man feels his rights and acts them ? Nor ought any member 
of our republic to complain, as long as the aggregate result of 
such action is what the world sees it is. Do we not behold 
evolving into birth, from it, the most wondrous nation, the 
most free from those evils which bad government causes, the 
really widest extending, possessing the truest riches of people 
and moral worth and freedom from want, ever yet seen aneath 
the broad heavens? . . . We know, well enough, that the 
workings of the democracy are not always justifiable, in every 
trivial point. But the great winds that purify the air, and with- 
out which nature would flag into ruin — are they to be condemned 
because a tree is prostrated here and there, in their course? 1 


It is of not so much importance, the difference in the idea of a 
proper time to discuss, if we are only united in the principle that 
whatever new territory may be annexed to the United States, 
shall be free territory, and not for slaves. With the present slave 

I Cf. post, I, pp. 197-198. 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 22, 1847. 

It was this editorial, "American Workingmen versus Slavery," and others of the sort, 
no doubt, which threw the weight of the Eagle's influence toward the "Barnburner" 
wing of the Democratic Party and resulted in the "rows with the boss and the party" 
(see "Complete Prose," p. 188) which ultimately set the young editor adrift. William 
Cullen Bryant, who was probably then, as later, a friend of Whitman, had this comment 
to make in the columns of the New York Evening Post on the occasion of Whitman's dis- 
missal (January 21, 1848): 

"Democracy in Kings County, L. I. — To a person familiar with the fact as to who 


states, of course, no human being any where out from them- 
selves has the least shadow of a right to interfere; 1 but in new 
land, added to our surface by the national arms, and by the 
action of our government, and where slavery does not exist, it 
is certainly of momentous importance one way or the other, 
whether that land shall be slave land or not. All ordinarily 
"weighty issues" are insignificant before this: it swallows them 
up as Aaron's rod swallowed the other rods. It involves the 
question whether the mighty power of this republic, put forth 
in its greatest strength, shall be used to root deeper and spread 
wider an institution which Washington, Jefferson, Madison, 
and all the old fathers of our freedom, anxiously, and avowedly 
from the bottom of their hearts, sought the extinction of, and 
considered inconsistent with the other institutions of the land. 
And if those true and brave old men were now among us, can 
any candid person doubt which "side" they would espouse in 
this argument? Would the great apostle of democracy — in his 
clear views of right and wrong, and their linked profit and loss — 
would he now, seeing the stalwart giants of the free young west, 
contrasted with the meagre leanness of the south — meagre with 
all her noble traits — would he hesitate in bending his divine en- 
ergies to the side of freedom ? 

The man who accustoms himself to think, when such matters 
are put before him, and does not whiff his opinion rapidly out, 

among the democrats of the western end of Long Island have been for years past in 
command of the movements there, the following news will not be very astonishing: 

"Old Hunkers vs. Barnburners. — Probably our readers know that the democrats 
of this state are divided at the present time under the above heads; and of all ferocity, 
there seldom has been seen any to equal that which seems to actuate these two sections. 
The democratic party in Brooklyn — the Eagle — has for two years past been edited by 
Mr. Walter Whitman, who, it seems, is a 'Barnburner.' In consequence of this fact 
a disagreement has arisen, because the 'Old Hunkers' wanted one of their own men 
there; and Mr. W. has had to give way to one of the other side.' — Brooklyn Star. 

"It is intimated in another Brooklyn paper that the radicals are now anxious to have a 
press of their own — and the late editor of the Eagle, mentioned above, is to engage in 
such an enterprise." 

In the fall of 1848 that is precisely what Whitman did (see infra, p. Hi). It is pos- 
sible, but unlikely, that Whitman went south with the intention of remaining only until 
the "radicals" had the new sheet (the Brooklyn Freeman) ready for him. Still, it seems 
a little strange that a radical "Barnburner" should have gone south at all at the time, 
and more strange that he should have willingly worked on a paper which carried slave 
auction announcements, though it did not, during his connection with it, defend slav- 
ery. However, Whitman was not a man of one reform; least of all was he an Abolition- 
ist crank (see post, II, p. 9, note 3). He had felt the call to become the poet of the whole 
nation and must needs see it, north and south. If that meant self-contradiction then 
he would reply, "I am large, I contain multitudes." 

1 Cf. post, II, p. 57. 


from mere heedlessness, or from a more degrading motive, will 
see the wide and radical difference between the unquestionable 
folly, and wicked wrong, of "abolitionist" interference with 
slavery in the southern states — and this point of establishing 
slavery in fresh land. With the former we have nothing to do; 
but with the latter, we should all be derelict to our highest du- 
ties as christians, as men, and as democrats, if we did not throw 
ourselves into the field of discussion, using the utmost display 
of every energy wherewith God has endowed us, in behalf of the 
side which reason and religion proclaim as the right one. Is 
this the country, and this the age, where and when we are to be 
told that slavery must be propped up and extended ? And shall 
any respectable portion of our citizens be deluded either by the 
sophisms of Mr. Calhoun, or those far, very far, lower influences of 
the darkest and meanest phases of demagougism [demagoguism], 
which are rife more at the north than at the south, to act in 
a matter which asks consideration purely on points of high 
justice, human rights, national advantage, and the safety of the 
union in the future? 


All people should endeavor to dress neatly, and with scru- 
pulous cleanliness and tidiness. But the ambition — particu- 
larly in young people — to have shining new clothes is of the 
paltriest and most vulgar kind. You rarely see a young man or 
woman of real good sense, and possessing any true accomplish- 
ments, who makes a marked display in the way of apparel. 
Generally speaking, in nature, the gaudiest objects have the 
least real worth. The peacock is not really as valuable as the 
despised goose; the mackaw "can't begin" with the plain- 
looking nightingale. . . . We all like to see a «W/-dressed 
young woman or man; that is one whose clothes are gracefully 
made, are plain, clean, full, and not awkward. But the mere 
displayer of shining cloth, with an attractive look from top to 
toe, is not likely to please the sober judgment. . . . Hear 

l From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 23, 1847. 

This editorial would seem to indicate that Whitman's bohemianism in dress has not 
yet been assumed, but, on the other hand, that he is no longer the dandy he was a few 
years previous. Cf. post, I, pp. 208-210. 


what somebody says of that class whose life is nothing but a 
devotion to the appearance of their persons: 

Life of a Dandy. — He gets up leisurely, breakfasts comfortably, 
reads the paper regularly, dresses fashionably, eats a tart gravely, 
talks superfluously, kills time indifferently, sups elegantly, goes to bed 
stupidly, and lives uselessly. 


The novels of Walter Scott are in some respects unsurpassed 
— but cannot be altogether praised. This great writer delin- 
eates . kings and queens and celebrated historic personages' 
more private life, perhaps even better where he excites every 
reader's profoundest sympathy by their losses, their defeats 
in war, or their severe calamities. Nor does he fail in a lower 
sphere. Who will not follow Jeanie Deans with every warm 
feeling on her venturous journey to London? And upon the 
whole, we think the "Heart of Mid Lothian," the best of the 
great North Man's productions. Considered artistically it is 
certainly faultless; and judging by our own heart while reading 
it, (as we have done four or five times) there are no others more 
capable of deeply interesting the brain that peruses it. 

But Scott was a tory and a high church and state man. The 
impression after reading any of his fictions where monarchs or 
nobles compare with patriots and peasants, is dangerous to the 
latter and favorable to the former. In the long line of those 
warriors for liberty, and those large-hearted lovers of men before 
classes of men, which English history has recorded upon its 
annals, and which form for the fast-anchored isle a far greater 
glory than her first Richard, or her tyrannical Stuarts, Scott 
has not thought one fit to be illustrated by his pen. In him as in 
Shakspere, (though in a totally different method,) "there's 
such divinity does hedge a king," 2 as makes them something 
more than mortal — and though this way of description may be 
good for poets or loyalists, it is poisonous for freemen. The 
historical characters of Scott's books, too, are not the characters 
of truth. He frequently gets the shadow on the wrong face. 
Cromwell, for instance, was in the main, and even with severe 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 26, 1847. 
Cf. infra, pp. 67-72; post, II, pp. 57-58, 105. 
•"Hamlet," IV, 5, 106. 


faults, a heroic champion of his countrymen's rights — and the 
young Stuart was from top to toe a licentious, selfish, deceitful, 
and unprincipled man, giving his fastest friends to the axe and 
his subjects to plunder, when a spark of true manly nerve would 
have saved both. But the inference to be drawn from Scott's 
representation of these two men makes the villain a good- 
natured pleasant gentleman, and the honest ruler a blood-seeking 
hypocrite! Shame on such truckling! It is a stain black 
enough, added to his atrocious maligning of Napoleon, to render 
his brightest excellence murky! 


Never was there a time better fitted than yesterday for an 
excursion from city to country, or from pavement to the sea- 
shore! The rain of the previous evening had cooled the air, 
and moistened the earth; there was no dust, and no unpleasant 
heat. It may well be imagined, then, that a jolly party of 
about sixty people, who, at i o'clock, p. m., met at the house of 
Mr. King, on the corner of Fulton and Orange streets, (where 
they laid a good foundation for after pleasures,) had every rea- 
son to bless their stars at the treat surely before them. Yes: 
there was to be a clam-bake — and, of all places in the world, a 
clam-bake at Coney-Island! Could mortal ambition go higher, 
or mortal wishes delve deeper? ... At a little before 2, 
the most superb stages, four of them from Husted & Kendall's 
establishment, were just nicely filled, (no crowding, and no 
vacant places, either,) and the teams of four and six horses 
dashed off with us all at a merry rate. The ride was a most in- 
spiriting one. After crossing the railroad track, the signs of 
country life, the green fields, the thrifty corn, the orchards, the 
wheat lying in swathes, and the hay-cocks here and there, with 
the farming-men at work all along, made such a spectacle as we 
dearly like to look upon. And then the clatter of human 
tongues, inside the carriages — the peals upon peals of laughter! 
the jovial witticisms, the anecdotes, stories, and so forth! — Why, 
there were enough to fill ten octavo volumes! The members 
of the party were numerous and various — embracing all the 
professions, and nearly all the trades, besides sundry aldermen, 
and other officials. 

»From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 15, 1847. 


Arrived at Coney Island, the first thing was to "take a 
dance," at which sundry distinguished personages shook care out 
of their heads and dust from their heels, at a great rate. Then a 
bathe in the salt water; ah, that was good indeed! Divers mar- 
vellous feats were performed in the water, in the way of splash- 
ing, ducking, and sousing, and one gentleman had serious 
thoughts of a sortie out upon some porpoises who were lazily 
rolling a short distance off. The beautiful, pure, sparkling, 
sea-water! one yearns to you (at least we do,) with an affection 
as grasping as your own waves ! l 

Half-past five o'clock had now arrived, and the booming of 
the dinner bell produced a sensible effect upon " the party," who 
ranged themselves at table without the necessity of a second 
invitation. As the expectation had been only for a "clam- 
bake " there was some surprise evinced at seeing a regularly laid 
out dinner, in handsome style, too, with all the et-ceteras. But 
as an adjunct — by some, made the principal thing — in due time, 
on came the roasted clams, well-roasted indeed! in the old 
Indian style, in beds, covered with brush and chips, and thus 
cooked in their own broth. When hunger was appeased with 
these savory and wholesome viands, the champaigne (good 
stuff it was!) began to circulate — and divers gentlemen made 
speeches, introductory to, and responsive at, toasts. A great 
many happy hits were made, and, in especial, one of the alder- 
men, at the head of one of the tables, conceived a remarkable 
toast, at which the people seemed tickled hugely. The healths 
of Messrs. Masterton, Smith, and King, of Mr. Murphy, 2 and of 
the corporation of Brooklyn, etc., were drank. Nor were the 
artisans and workmen forgotten; nor were the ladies, nor the 
Brooklyn press, which the member of congress from this district 
spoke in the most handsome manner of, and turned off a very 
neat toast upon. 

The return to Brooklyn, in the evening, was a fit conclusion 
to a day of enjoyment. The cool air, the smell of the new mown 

l Cf." Leaves of Grass," 1917, 1, p. 59: 

You see! I resign myself to you also — I guess what you mean 

I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers, 

I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me, etc. 

This and similar passages in Whitman's verse evidently describe a temperament 
characteristic of his young manhood. On them certain writers (especially Doctor W. C. 
Rivers in his " Walt Whitman's Anomaly," pp. 40 ff.) have based their assertion of 
Whitman's '''sexual hyperesthesia." 

'Henry C. Murphy; see post, II, pp. 1, 2, 5, 225, 295. 


hay, the general quiet around, (there was anything but quiet, 
however, inside our vehicles,) made it pleasant indeed, We 
ascended to the tower-like seat, by Mr. Camfield, 1 the driver 
of the six-horse stage, and had one of the pleasantest sort of 
eight-mile rides back to Brooklyn, at which place our party ar- 
rived a little after 9 o'clock. All thanks, and long and happy 
lives, to the contractors on the new city hall! to whose generous 
spirit we were indebted for yesterday's pleasure. 


There are many people among us — and generally intelligent 
ones, too — who are in the habit of talking, writing, and reason- 
ing on the principle that government is the power whose influence, 
properly wielded, ought to make men virtuous, happy, and pos- 
sessed of a competence. We find the following extract in the 
last number of that valuable weekly, the American Statesman: 

Which is the Most Perfect Popular Government? — "That," 
said Bias, "where the laws have no superior." 

"That," said Thales, "where the inhabitants are neither too rich 
nor too poor." 

"That," said Anacharsis, the Scythian, "where virtue is honored 
and vice detested." 

"That," said Pattacus, "whose dignities are always conferred upon 
the virtuous, and never upon the base." 

"That," said Cleopolus, "where the citizens fear blame more than 

"That," said Chilo, "where the laws are regarded more than the 

"That," said Solon, "where any injury done to the meanest subject 
is an insult to the whole community." 

" But," said the wisest of them all, " that is the most perfect govern- 
ment, where the earth is not monopolized by the few to the injury of 
the many, and where labor, receiving a just remuneration for its toil, 
is guaranteed to all. In that government you will find neither misery, 
nor crime, nor poverty." 

It may seem a tall piece of coolness and presumption for a 
humble personage like ourself to put his opinions of government 

*This is probably a misprint for Canfield, for no Cornfields appear in the city directories 
of the period. 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 26, 1847. 

CJ. "Song of the Broad-Axe," 1856, in "Leaves of Grass," 1917, 1, pp. 228-230. 


on the same page with those of the wise men of the ancient days; 
but, as a common engineer, now, could tell Archimedes things 
to make the latter stare, so the march of improvement has 
brought to light truths in politics which the wisest sages of 
Greece and Rome never discovered. And it is, at the same 
time, painful to yet see the servile regard paid by the more 
enlightened present to the darker past. The recognized doc- 
trine that the people are to be governed by some abstract power, 
apart from themselves, has not, even at this day and in this 
country, lost its hold — nor that to any thing more than the 
government must the said people look for their well-doing and 
the prosperity of the state. In such a form of rule as ours this 
dogma is particularly inconvenient; because it makes a perpet- 
ual and fierce strife between those of opposing views, to get 
their notions and doctrines realized in the laws. 

In plain truth, "the people expect too much of the govern- 
ment." Under a proper organization, (and even to a great ex- 
tent as things are,) the wealth and happiness of the citizens 
could be hardly touched by the government — could neither 
be retarded nor advanced. Men must be "masters into [unto?] 
themselves," and not look to presidents and legislative bodies for 
aid. In this wide and naturally rich country, the best govern- 
ment indeed is "that which governs least." 1 

One point, however, must not be forgotten — ought to be put 
before the eyes of the people every day; and that is, that al- 
though government can do little positive good to the people, it 
may do an immense deal of harm. And here is where the beauty 
of the democratic principle comes in. Democracy would pre- 
vent all this harm. It would have no man's benefit achieved 
at the expense of his neighbors. It would have no one's rights 
infringed upon and that, after all, is pretty much the sum and 
substance of the prerogatives of government. How beautiful 
and harmonious a system! How it transcends all other codes, 
as the golden rule, in its brevity, transcends the ponderous tones 
[tomes?] of philosophic lore! While mere politicians, in their 
narrow minds, are sweating and fuming with their complicated 
statutes, this one single rule, rationally construed and applied, 
is enough to form the starting point of all that is necessary in 
government: to make no more laws than those useful for pre- 
venting a man or a body of men from infringing on the rights of 
other men. 

iCfTpost, I, pp. 259-264; also "To the States," "Leaves of Grass," 1917, 1, 


We conclude our article by the following extract from a dis- 
course by* the great Channing, 1 which we mean more particularly 
for those who think that poor citizens are the great difficulty in 
the way of national happiness: 

Mere wealth adds nothing to a people's glory. It is the nation's soul, 
which constitutes its greatness. Nor is it enough for a country to pos- 
sess a select class of educated, cultivated men; for the nation consists 
of the many not the few; and where masses are sunk in ignorance and 
sensuality, there you see a degraded community, even though an aris- 
tocracy of science be lodged in its bosom. It is the moral and intellec- 
tual progress of the people to which the patriot should devote himself 
as the only dignity and safeguard of the state. 


Our Brooklyn ferries teach some sage lessons in philosophy, 
gentle reader, (we like that time-honoured phrase! 3 ) whether you 
ever knew it or not. There is the Fulton, now, which takes pre- 
cedence by age, and by a sort of aristocratic seniority of wealth 
and business, too. It moves on like iron-willed destiny. Pas- 
sionless and fixed, at the six-stroke the boats come in; and at the 
three-stroke, succeeded by a single tap, they depart again, with 
the steadiness of nature herself. Perhaps a man, prompted by 
the hell-like delirium tremens, has jumped over-board and been 
drowned: still the trips go on as before. Perhaps some one has 
been crushed between the landing and the prow — (ah ! that most 
horrible thing of all !) still, no matter, for the great business of 
the mass must be helped forward as before. A moment's pause 
— the quick gathering of a curious crowd, (how strange that they 
can look so unshudderingly on the scene !) — the paleness of the 
more chicken hearted — and all subsides, and the current sweeps 
as it did the moment previously. How it deadens one's sym- 
pathies, this living in a city! 

But the most "moral" part of the ferry sights, is to see the 
conduct of the people, old and young, fat and lean, gentle and 

1 I presume this is William Ellery Channing, Unitarian minister, pulpit orator, and 
writer, but I have been unable to locate the passage in his works. 

2 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 13, 1847. 

This early editorial has interest, not only in itself, but also because Whitman was such 
a frequenter of the ferries and because one of his truest poems was written about, if not 
on, them ("Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"). Cf. also "Complete Prose," p. 11, and post, 
II, pp. 292-203. 

3 Cf. post, II, p. 262. 


simple, when the bell sounds three taps. Then follows a spec- 
tacle, indeed — particularly on the Brooklyn side, at from seven 
o'clock to nine in the morning. At the very first moment of 
the sound, perhaps some sixty or eighty gentlemen are plodding 
along the side walks, adjacent to the ferry boat — likewise some 
score or so of lads — with that brisk pace which bespeaks the 
"business individual." Now see them as the said three- tap is 
heard! Apparently moved by an electric impulse, two thirds 
of the whole number start off on the wings of the wind! Coat 
tails fly high and wide! You get a swift view of the phantom- 
like semblance of humanity, as it is sometimes seen in dreams — 
but nothing more — unless it may be you are on the walk your- 
self, when the chances are in favor of a breath-destroying punch 
in the stomach. In their insane fury, the rushing crowd spare 
neither age nor sex. Then the single stroke of the bell is heard; 
and straightway what was rage before comes to be a sort of 
extatic fury! Aware of his danger, the man that takes the toll 
has ensconced himself behind a stout oaken partition, which 
seems only to be entered through a little window-looking place: 
but we think he must have more than ordinary courage, to 
stand even there. We seriously recommend the ferry superin- 
tendent to have this place as strong as iron bars can make it. 

This rushing and raging is not inconsistent, however, with 
other items of the American character. Perhaps it is a devel- 
opment of the "indomitable energy" and "chainless enter- 
prise " which we get so much praise for. But it is a very ludi- 
crous thing, nevertheless. If the trait is remembered down to 
posterity, and put in the annals, it will be bad for us. Posterity 
surely cannot attach anything of the dignified or august to a 
people who run after steam-boats, with hats flying off, and skirts 
streaming behind! Think of any of the Roman senators, or 
the worthies of Greece, in such a predicament. — (The esteem 
which we had for a certain acquaintance went up at least 
a hundred per cent, one day, when we found that, though a daily 
passenger over the ferry, he never accelerated his pace in the 
slightest manner, even when by so doing, he could "save a 

A similar indecorum and folly are exhibited when the boat 
approaches the wharf. As if some avenging fate were behind 
them, and the devil indeed was going to " take the hindermost," 
the passengers crowd to the very verge of the forward parts, and 
wait with frightful eagerness till they are brought within three 


or four yards of the landing — when the front row prepare them- 
selves for desperate springs. Among many there is a rivalry 
as to who shall leap on shore over the widest stretch of water! 
The boat gets some four or five feet from the wharf, and then 
the springing begins — hop! hop! hop! — those who are in the 
greatest hurry generally stopping for several minutes when 
they get on the dock to look at their companions behind on the 
boat, and how they come ashore! Well: there is a great deal of 
inconsistency in this world. 

The Catherine ferry at the foot of Main street has plenty 
of business, too, though not near as much as the one whose 
peculiarities we have just been narrating. It has lately had 
some new boats — or new fixings and paint, we don't know which 
— and presents, (we noticed the other day, in crossing,) quite a 
spruce appearance. The Catherine ferry is used by many work- 
ing people: in the morning they cross there in prodigious num- 
bers. Also, milk wagons, and country vehicles generally. Dur- 
ing the day a great many of the Brooklyn dames go over this 
ferry on shopping excursions to the region of Grand street and 
Catherine street on the other side. The desperation to get to 
the boat, which we have mentioned above, does not prevail 
so deeply here. Long may the contagion "stay away"! for 
we must confess that we don't like to see it. This ferry, (like 
all the others,) is a very profitable investment; and from those 
profits we are warranted in saying — as we have said once or 
twice before — that the price for foot passengers should be put 
down to one cent, and horses and wagons in proportion. 

The South ferry has a more dainty and "genteel" character 
than either of the other places. The broad avenue which 
leads to it, and the neighborhood of the aristocratic heights, 
from whom it receives many of its passengers, keep it so. Busi- 
ness is not so large there as at either of the other ferries we have 
mentioned; but the accommodations are of the first quality. 
The boats are large and clean; and the more moderate bustle 
and clatter make it preferable, during the summer afternoons, 
for ladies and children — the latter often taken by their nurses 
and remaining on board the boats for an hour, for the pleasant 

Besides these, we have the ferry from the foot of Jackson 
street on the Brooklyn side, to Walnut st. New York side. 
This consists of only one boat, and a rather shabby one at that. 
Many workmen at the navy yard use this means of conveyance; 


and it is also of course patronized by citizens in that vicinity. 
We should think much better and more rapid accommodations 
would be desirable there. — The boat is half the time prevented 
by her own unwieldness from getting into her slip under half an 
hour's detention. She seems to be some old affair that has been 
cast off for years. 

We have also two other ferries, in the limits of Brooklyn, 
which in time will be as much avenues of business as either of 
the rest. One of these goes from Whitehall to the foot of Ham- 
ilton avenue, and accommodates the region of the Atlantic 
dock, and of farther South Brooklyn, which is daily assuming 
more and more importance. The other goes also from White- 
hall to the long wharf near Greenwood cemetery. This also 
is necessary for the accommodation of a rapidly increasing mass 
of citizens who are attracted by the salubrity of that section of 
Brooklyn joined with the cheapness of the land and the nearness 
of the beautiful grounds of the cemetery. 

The ferry at the foot of Montagu[e] street is in progress; and 
will probably be in operation next spring. The Bridge street 
ferry is also determined upon, and may be completed by the 
same time. 


The question whether or no there shall be slavery in the new 
territories which it seems conceded on all hands we are largely 
to get through this Mexican war, is a question between the 
grand body of white workingmen, the millions of mechanics, 
farmers, and operatives of our country, with their interests, on 
the one side — and the interests of the few thousand rich, 
"polished," and aristocratic owners of slaves at the south, on 
the other side. Experience has proved, (and the evidence is to 
be seen now by any one who will look at it) that a stalwart mass 
of respectable workingmen cannot exist, much less flourish, in a 
thorough slave state. Let any one think for a moment what a 
different appearance New York, Pennsylvania, or Ohio would 
present — how much less sturdy independence and family happi- 
ness there would be — were slaves the workmen there, instead of 
each man as a general thing being his own workman. We wish 

*From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September I, 1847. 
Cf. infra, pp. 160-162; post, II, pp. 8-10. 


not at all to sneer at the south; but leaving out of view the edu- 
cated and refined gentry, and coming to the "common people*' 
of the whites, everybody knows what a miserable, ignorant, 
and shiftless set of beings they are. Slavery is a good thing 
enough, (viewed partially,) to the rich — the one out of thousands; 
but it is destructive to the dignity and independence of all who 
work, and to labor itself. An honest poor mechanic, in a slave 
state, is put on a par with the negro slave mechanic — there 
being many of the latter, who are hired out by their owners. 
It is of no use to reason abstractly on this fact — farther than to 
say that the price of a northern American freeman, poor though 
he be, will not comfortably stand such degredation. 

The influence of the slave institution is to bring the dignity 
of labor down to the level of slavery, which, God knows! 
is low enough. And this it is which must induce the workingmen 
of the north, east, and west, to come up, to a man, in defense of 
their rights, their honor, and that heritage of getting bread by 
the sweat of the brow, which we must leave to our children. Let 
them utter forth, then, in tones as massive as becomes their 
stupendous cause, that their calling shall not be sunk to the 
miserable level of what is little above brutishness — sunk to be 
like owned goods, and driven cattle! — We call upon every 
mechanic of the north, east, and west — upon the carpenter, in 
his rolled up sleeves, the mason with his trowel, the stone-cutter 
with his brawny chest, the blacksmith with his sooty face, the 
brown-fisted ship-builder, whose clinking strokes rattle so 
merrily in our dock yards — upon shoemakers, and cartmen, 
and drivers, and paviers, and porters, and millwrights, and 
furriers, and ropemakers, and butchers, and machinists, and 
tinmen, and tailors, and hatters, and coach and cabinet makers 
— upon the honest sawyer and mortar-mixer, too, whose sinews 
are their own — and every hard-working man — to speak in a 
voice whose great reverberations shall tell to all quarters that 
the workingmen of the free United States, and their business, 
are not willing to be put on the level of negro slaves, in territory 
which, if got at all, must be got by taxes sifted eventually 
through upon them, and by their hard work and blood. But 
most of all we call upon the farmers, the workers of the land — 
that prolific brood of brown faced fathers and sons who swarm 
over the free states, and form the true bulwark of our republic, 
mightier than walls or armies — upon them we call to say whether 
they too will exist "free and independent" not only in name 


but also by those social customs and laws which are greater than 
constitutions — or only so by statute, while in reality they are 
put down to an equality with slaves! 

There can be no half way work in the matter of slavery in the 
new territory: we must either have it there, or have it not. 
Now if either the slaves themselves, or their owners, had fought 
or paid for or gained this territory, there would be some reason 
in the pro-slavery claims. But every body knows that the 
work and the cost come, forty-nine fiftieths of it, upon the free 
men, the middling classes and workingmen, who do their own 
work and own no slaves. Shall these give up all to the aristo- 
cratic owners of the south? Will even the poor white freemen 
of the south be willing to do this? It is monstrous to ask such 
a thing! 

Not the least curious part of the present position of this 
subject is, the fact who advances the claims of slavery, and the 
singular manner in which those claims are half-allowed by men at 
the north who ought to know better. The truth is that all 
practice and theory — the real interest of the planters them- 
selves — and the potential weight of the opinions of all our great 
statesmen, southern as well as northern, from Washington to 
Silas Wright — are strongly arrayed in favor of limiting slavery 
to where it already exists. For this the clear eye of Washington 
looked longingly; for this the great voice of Jefferson plead, 
and his sacred fingers wrote; for this were uttered the prayers 
of Franklin and Madison and Monroe. But now, in the south, 
stands a little band, strong in chivalry, refinement, and genius — 
headed by a sort of intellectual Saladin — assuming to speak in 
behalf of sovereign states, while in reality they utter their own 
idle theories; and disdainfully crying out against the rest of the 
republic, for whom their contempt is but illy concealed. The 
courage and high- tone of these men are points in their favor, it 
must be confessed. With dextrous but brazen logic they profess 
to stand on the constitution against a principle whose very 
existence dates from some of the most revered formers of that 
constitution! And these — this band, really little in numbers, 
and which could be annihilated by one pulsation of the stout 
free heart of the north — these are the men who are making such 
insolent demands, in the face of the working farmers and me- 
chanics of the free states — the nine-tenths of the population of 
the republic. We admire the chivalric bearing (sometimes a sort 
of impudence) of these men. So we admire, as it is told in 


history, the dauntless conduct of kings and nobles when ar- 
raigned for punishment before an outraged and a too long- 
suffering people. . . . But the course of moral light and 
human freedom, (and their consequent happiness), is not to be 
stayed by such men as they. Thousands of noble hearts at 
the north — the entire east — the uprousing giant of the free west 
— will surely, when the time comes, sweep over them and their 
doctrines as the advancing ocean tide obliterates the channel 
of some little brook that erewhile ran down the sands of its 
shore. Already the roar of the waters is heard; and if a few 
short-sighted ones seek to withstand it, the surge, terrible in 
its fury, will sweep them too in the ruin. 



Starting on the Railroad — Bedford — East New York — Jamaica — 
characters ' ' there — Hempstead — Hicksville — Farm ingdale, 
( form erly * * Hards crabble> ' ' ) fin is. 

Riverhead, Suffolk County, September ioth. — At half- 
past one o'clock yesterday afternoon, I started on the L. I. 
railroad from the South ferry on my way to the eastern section 
of "old Nassau." The usual splutter which precedes a start 
attended us, of course. Little boys with newspapers, friends 
taking leave, women uttering "last words," Emerald ladies 
with peaches, (oranges now are among the things that were,) 
and small fry with various wares, surrounded the cars; and these, 
with the assistance of the furious steam pipe, and certain ob- 
streperous iron work that certes seemed to have some rickety 
disorder, made up a scene that would make the fortune of a 
melo-drama, if brought in at the close of an act — but which I 
was glad enough to escape from, I assure you. 

The first stopping place was at Bedford. So near to Brook- 
lyn, our readers are most of them familiar enough with the 
aspect of this pretty little hamlet; it has a great amount of 

l From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 16, 1847. 

It was not very uncommon in Whitman's editorial days for an editor to travel occa- 
sionally, keeping in touch with his newspaper or magazine by meansof "correspondence." 
During his editorship of the Eagle Whitman appears to have made two trips to the 
eastern end of the Island (see infra, pp. 11 8-1 21), and another while writing for the 
Standard {stcpost, II, pp. 306-321)., II, pp. 275-278. The present journey lasted, 
apparently, about two weeks. 


shrubbery and trees, and that same richness of vegetation 
gives it, with all its rurality, something of a fever-and-aguish 
aspect, which I should hardly like to live in the midst of, more 
than long enough to visit my hospitable friend W., at his cot- 
tage there. 

East New York comes next on the line. This settlement is 
quite a flat. To the north rises a spur of that range of hills 
which runs nearly through the island, and gives the settlement 
a relief from the character of monotony which most flat places 
possess. East New York was going to be, once, a very great 
city, and arrangements were made on a corresponding scale 
to have it so. A post office was established, also a school and 
church, ditto a "land agency"; after which there was some talk 
of a bank — (all this was years ago, in the "speculation times" 1 ) 
— and your humble servant himself was spoken to about going 
there and establishing a newspaper. — Numerous lots were sold, 
and buildings erected. — The place did really offer a pretty nat- 
ural situation, and the land presenting no obstacle to conveni- 
ence of every kind in forming a village, golden dreams were 
paramount in the heads of more than its principal proprietor, 
Mr. Pitkin. But alas! like all the false business that was super- 
induced by the poisonous influence of the United States bank, 
and the paper speculators of those days, the bubble burst at 
last — and East New York almost burst with it. I observe that 
some clusters of buildings are still there, and most of them seem 
to be occupied. But the whole village is devoid of that aspect 
of vitality which notes [denotes ?] a thriving and growing place, 
where the inhabitants are "making money." 

After passing the Union race course — the scene of so many 
feverish contests, and of the changing ownership of cash, and 
which presents, in its every-day look so wondrous a difference 
from the days when great races are to come off — we arrived at 
Jamaica. This is truly a charming place, and is occupied by 
many intellectual and wealthy people. It consisted a few years 
ago mostly of one main street, the turnpike; but of late years 
this has been intersected by a great many thoroughfares, and 
now Jamaica can almost present its claims to a cityfied char- 
acter. It has as many churches, in proportion, as Brooklyn — 
including that of "the old dominie," Mr. Schoonmaker, who 
used to preach alternately in Dutch and English. — Also the old 
Methodist church, with its little panes of window glass, about as 

*C/.post, II, p. 297. 


big as boarding house pancakes. At this last, is stationed one 
of the old fathers, the venerable presiding elder of the Long 
Island district, Mr. Matthias, whose age and estimable char- 
acter make him much endeared to everybody. Jamaica has 
two newspapers, the Democrat, 1 whose politics are signified by its 
name, and the Farmer, 2 a whig print. — Some good schools, for 
both sexes, and any quantity of stores and public houses, are 
also in Jamaica. 

We then stopped a moment at Brushville, two or three miles to 
the east, where the Hempstead turnpike turns off from the one 
which leads down unto Jericho; and the next "station," as 
called out by the conductor, is Hempstead "and Branch," — 
something like "Boston and New England." The railroad, as 
you probably know, does not run through the village of Hemp- 
stead, which is somewhat to be regretted. Said village lies some 
two miles to the south; and the stopping place is a settlement 
built up right in the middle of the plains, on the strength of 
that being the stopping place. It does not look so bare, though, 
as one would expect, from the character of the surrounding 
country. A track has been laid to connect with the village of 
Hempstead so that passengers can go from Brooklyn there, 
without getting out of the car: it goes down from the main track 
by horse-engine instead of steam. — Hempstead is an old village, 
mostly celebrated for its clams, (indeed it is by some called 
Clamtown.) It is pretty in its situation, very wholesome, has a 
worthy population, and is considerable of a trading town. 
There is one newspaper there, the Inquirer? neutral in politics, 
an excellent academy, and divers churches. To the southeast 
from it stretches the great turnpike that leads down along our 
island's "sea-girt shore," even through the gates of Jerusalem 
and into the recess of Babylon the great. 

Hicksville comes next, (not stopping to make particular 
mention of Carl place and Westbury). Ah, how are the mighty 
fallen! Hicksville was going to be "one of the cities," when 
the railroad was first finished to it. 4 We remember the time. 
Why, people bought lots there, (only think of it,) and speculated 
in them, just the same as the corn and flour dealers, last winter, 
went into their speculations. — And full as bitterly bitten were the 
dreamers of this "city on the plain," as were our floury neigh- 
bours at the western end of South street. Hicksville now 

l Cf. infra, xxxii and notes. *Cf. infra, p. 32, note 2. 
*Cf. infra, p. 48, note 2. 4 In 1837. 


consists of one very large tavern, with a remarkably meagre 
aspect, and standing much in want of a coat of paint — one huge 
car house — sundry pig-pens unoccupied — and a few houses, also 
unoccupied. — The only thing in which Hicksville has ample 
room and verge enough, and which a man might take without 
any one saying him nay, would be yard room — for potato 
patches, drying 'clothes, or any other purpose he saw fit. In 
every direction you look on nothing but the flat plains — of 
which I shall have more to say in one of these rambling epistles. 

Farmingdale lies some seven or eight miles farther east. 
In the vernacular hereabout it was called Hardscrabble (this 
is the veritable place!) but the rage for improvement, not 
agreeing with Juliet, (wasn't it Shakespere's Juliet, who asked 
about that "rose"? 1 ) wisely thought that any other name 
would be more inviting than Hardscrabble. 2 I think it was right. 

But I have made my letter already long enough for this 

day of short newspaper articles. Though I have headed my 
letter "East Long Island correspondence/' — and though it has, 
as yet, got no farther than Farmingdale, I shall let the heading 
stand in view of what I shall write in future. I have dated it at 
Riverhead, too, though I must describe several localities yet 
before I catch up, (or rather get the reader to catch up,) to River- 
head. We are "enjoying" a pretty dull, continued, chilly rain, 
this morning — after having had said rain, in a still heavier de- 
velopment, during the night — and a prospect of "the same sub- 
ject continued," during the day, and perhaps longer. 



Scenery after leaving Farmingdale {otherwise Hardscrabble^) 
Huntington and Babylon; Deer Park; scenery at the "stations" ; 
West Hills; Medford, Yaphank, and St. George's manor; practica- 
bility of cultivating the wild land here; stopping at Riverhead; &c. 

After leaving Farmingdale, we trudged east with our steam 
steed through brush, plains, pine, scrub oak, and all the other 
peculiarities of those singular diggins, at a speed considerably 

l " Romeo and Juliet," II, 2, 43. 

2 See the Index for other evidence of Whitman's interest in place names. 

3 From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 18, 1847. 


faster than ordinary wind. The next station to Farmingdale is 
Deer Park, somewhat halfway between the village of Hunting- 
ton on the north and Babylon the great on the south. You 
must not suppose, from the name of this station, that it really 
is a park, or that deer are very plentiful here. On the contrary, 
few spots can peresent a more dreary and barren appearance. 
The blackened stumps of pine trees, the uninviting glimpses of 
a bit of soil here and there, the monotonous pine tree, and one 
single house, used as a tavern, are all that relieve the eye. But 
it is very different both to the north and south. There lie the 
ample and rich farms of the good old democratic town of Hunt- 
ington. Thousands and thousands of the best soil on Long 
Island are comprised in them. To the north are apple orchards 
and grass lands, so thrifty that the eye of an agriculturist might 
gloat for hours in the mere seeing of them. The land is diver- 
sified into hills and valleys; and on the tops of the highest eleva- 
tions are little lakes of the purest water, which form brooks 
down the valleys, and irrigate many of the neighboring fields. 
What is called the highest point of land on the island is at 
West Hills, in the town of Huntington; it was made much use 
of by Mr. Hassler, the U. S. chief of engineers, in the great plan 
of coast survey which has been going on for some years past. 
The other part of Huntington, lying along the south bay, is of a 
different character; it partakes offish, both on the land as well 
as water. Fish is one of the most powerful manures known, 
and under its influence the corn grows to an astonishing height 
and size. I have thought, indeed, that the fault among the 
farmers here was in putting too much of it, at a time, on their 
land. Like Macbeth's ambition, it o'erleaps itself and falls 
on the other side of fertility. 1 

Beyond Deer Park are numerous petty "stations," which al- 
ways make me think of new single habitations in the far west 2 — 
with their cheerless looking houses, barefooted children, and 
general slovenliness. These "stations" are appointed gener- 
ally with respect to some village or town off against them on the 
north or south turnpikes, and consist mostly of but one or two 
structures, and those of the shabbiest kind. Sometimes a little 
spot for gardening is cleared around them; but the energy of 
their owners seems to give out before any great good has been 
done. You see the dwarfed and sickly yellow corn, and the 

ia Macbeth," 1,9,27-28. 

2 There is no evidence that Whitman had himself visited the West previous to this time. 


poor beans and potatoes; but no care is taken of them when 
they promise so wretchedly, which redoubles their dwarfedness 
and sickliness. — I am firmly convinced, however, that a little 
intelligent knowledge of agriculture, aided by its great hand- 
maiden chemistry, would do wonders here, and soon make 
even these sterile spots to bud and blossom like the rose. It 
is a pity that there is, among the farmers of Long Island, an 
unusual share of the contempt of their craft for "book-farming." 

Medford, Yaphank, St. George's manor, and so forth, are 
the names of some of the stopping places here — to the south 
and north of which lie many rich and fertile neighborhoods. 
The railroad seems to have been built with the design of running 
thro* the most unproductive and the most uninviting parts of 
the island. For while on both sides, adjacent to the shore, one 
could hardly go amiss of pleasant places, athwart the line of 
the rails the eye rests, soon after leaving Jamaica, upon one con- 
tinued spread of apparently useless land, uncultivated and al- 
most valueless — and this quite down to Greenport. The ques- 
tion as to the practicability of cultivating this land has lately 
been started. A very large portion of it doubtless is susceptible 
of cultivation. 

Never having been to Riverhead, the county town of old Suf- 
folk, I suddenly resolved, when the conductor sung out its name, 
and the cars stopped there, to stop there too. Accordingly, I 
clutched my carpet bag, and, in obedience to the prevailing 
spirit of haste, was soon out upon the platform. — The village 
itself lies a little south from the stopping place of the railroad, 
and is one of the oldest on Long Island. Of its character, pe- 
culiarities, and what I have delved out here in the way of inci- 
dent — as well as how I am "getting along" myself — I shall ad- 
vise you more fully in another epistle. 

Since my setting down here, we have been blessed with a 
refreshing time in the way of a cold, dull, dark, blue-devilish, 
north-east rain — not a bit of sunshine or clear sky being even 
momentarily visible. I was in hopes, last evening, that a 
change was coming over the spirit of the dream, 1 but at the 
moment of the present writing, (Saturday morning, nth,) the 
clouds are as heavy as ever. But never mind: is a man made 
to grumble merely because the skies look dark? Are not the 
skies there still? 

iCf."A change came o'er the spirit of my dream," Byron's "The Dream," Stanza 3, 
line I. Cf. I, post, p. 218. 


I heard last night that authentic news of Scott's victories at 
the city of Mexico had been received in town. Consider me as 
on the top of the tallest pine tree in the present neighborhood, 
wafting my gratified patriotism to you in the loudest sort of 
a "holler." 


Southold, September 14TH. — Seeing, to-day, as I passed one 
of the country stores, a real Indian, (at least as far as there are 
any of that race now-a-days; that is, perhaps, an Indian whose 
blood is only thinned by only two or three degrees of mixture,) 
my thoughts were turned toward the aboriginal inhabitants of 
this island. A populous and powerful race! for such they once 
were. Some authorities assert that, at the earliest approach of 
the whites to this part of the continent, and for a time after, the 
Indian inhabitants of Long Island numbered a million and a half. 
This may be an over-estimate; but the red race here was cer- 
tainly very numerous, as is evidenced by many tokens. "An 
ancient Indian," says one tradition, "more than a hundred years 
ago, declared to one of the earliest inhabitants of Easthampton, 
that within his recollection the natives were as many as the 
spears of grass. And if, said he, stretching his hands over the 
ground, you can count these, then, when I was a boy, you could 
have reckoned their number." . . . Another token is the 
immense shell-banks, at intervals, all along the shores of the 
island — some of them literally " mountain high." Another is the 
immense tract devoted to the fields of Indian corn. 

Unlike the present arrangement, the seat of the greatest 
aboriginal population and power was on the eastern extremity of 
Long Island. On the peninsula of Montauk dwelt the royal 
tribe; — and there lived and ruled the noble Wyandanch; (will not 
the Union ferry company be persuaded to take off that miserably 
wrong terminative of "dank" from the boat they pretend to 
christen after the old chief). 2 This chief held a position not 

l From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 20, 1847. 

'William Wallace Tooker, in his "Indian Place Names on Long Island" (Putnam's, 
New York, 1911), pp. 294-295, gives ten different spellings, apparently preferring 
Wyandance, in which form the name supplanted that of Deer Park {infra, p. 178) 
on January 1, 1889. Wyandance was Sachem of Paumanack (Whitman's spelling, 
Paumanok, is not given by Tooker at all), after the death of his elder brother in 1652. 
His name means "the wise speaker." Cf. post, II, pp. 274-275, 315-316. 


unlike our American president. On the Island were thirteen 
separate tribes, (our King's county was occupied by the "Can- 
arsees,") who were united in one general confederacy, at the 
head of which was Wyandanch. From Montauk, whose white 
sides resounded forever with the mighty voice of the sea, went 
forth the supreme commands and decisions. Here, too, was the 
holiest of the burial places, the sacred spots to all savage na- 
tions, and peculiarly so to our North American Indians. On 
Montauk, even now, may also be seen remains of aboriginal 
fortifications, one of which at what is now called "Fort Hill" 
must have been a work of art indeed. It had ramparts and 
parapets, ditches around, and huge towers at each of four cor- 
ners — and is estimated to have afforded conveniences for three 
or four hundred men, and to evince singular knowledge of war- 
fare, even as understood by what we call civilized nations. 
Wars, indeed, added to pestilence, and most of all the use of the 
"fire-water," 1 thinned off the Indian population from the earlier 
settlement of the whites, until there are hardly any remaining. 
I believe there are but two clusters of Indian families that can 
be called settlements, now on the island. One is at Shinnecock, 
and consists of some hundred and forty or fifty persons: the 
other is down on Montauk, and does not comprise a baker's 
dozen. Sad remnants, these, of the sovereign sway and the old 
majesty there! 


[No. i] 2 

Crossing the Alleghanies 

We left Baltimore on Saturday morning at seven o* clock, 
on the railroad for Cumberland, which is about a hundred and 
seventy miles distant, at the eastern edge of the Alleghanies. 
Of course, at this season of the year the country is not remark- 

l Cf. post, II, p. in. For other evidences of Whitman's interest in the Indians, see 
post, II, pp. 233-235, 260-261, 274-275, 314-317- 

2 From the Daily Crescent (New Orleans), March 5, 1848. 

Whitman's connection with the Crescent extended from its first issue, Sunday, March 
5, 1848 (thereafter it was issued only on week days), until he resigned, May 24, 1848 
(see post, II, p. 78). Since he was not in sole editorial charge of the paper, as he had been 
in the Eagle office, it is necessary to identify his contributions. Some of these are signed 
"W" or "W. W." The latter form of initial was affixed to the only poem known to 
have been published by him in the Crescent, " The Mississippi at Midnight." The ori- 


ably fascinating anywhere; and here a very large portion of the 
road is bounded on one side or the other by cliffs and steeps of 
an Alp-like loftiness. We seemed, for at least a hundred miles, 
to follow the course of an interminable brook, winding with its 
windings, and twisting with its twists, in a, to me, singular 
fashion. But even with so many circuits, the road had to be cut 
through very many bad places; and was probably one of the 
most expensive railroads ever built. It pays enormous profits, 
however; and they seriously "talk" about having it continued to 
some place on the Ohio, perhaps Wheeling. After "talking 
about it" awhile, it will very likely be done; it only wants money 
enough — and an enormous lot of that it will want, too! 

At Harper's Ferry, where they gave us twenty minutes to 
dine, the scenery is strikingly abrupt and varied. Houses 
were perched up over our heads — backs in the ground — and 
others perched up over their heads, and so on. The finest scenery, 
though, even here, (if it be not a bull to say so,) is about half a 
mile off. As soon as the cars stopped, a frightful sound of bells 

ginal version, which differs in many respects from that in the "Complete Prose" (pp. 
373~374-)> is to be found in Doctor Bucke's "Notes and Fragments" (pp. 41-42), in the 
Yale Review, October, 191 5, and in the "Publications of the Louisiana Historical Society," 
Vol. VII, pp. 102-103. Other contributions given here are identified (1) by their being in 
Whitman's particular province as described by himself (this applies only to " Fourierism," 
post,I, p. 229; see post, II, p. 78); (2) by their unambiguous similarity to Whitman's 
preserved writings (as "General Taylor at the Theatre," post, I, p. 225); (3) by the de- 
tailed statements of one of Whitman's fellow journalists of the New Orleans press of 
1848 (James Edmunds, author of "Kant's Ethics," Louisville, 1884) to Mr. William 
Kernan Dart, whose article on "Walt Whitman in New Orleans" ("Publications of the 
Louisiana Historical Society," Vol. VII) mentions most of the important articles which 
can with assurance be ascribed to Whitman; or (4) by two or more of these methods of 
identification. It may be said also that there is nothing in any of these articles to con- 
tradict the statements of Mr. Dart, but, on the other hand, that the internal evidence 
of Whitman's authorship is very strong. 

As to the " Excerpts from a Traveller's Note Book," they follow the known route of 
the Whitmans (see "Complete Prose," pp. 14-15) in their journey to New Orleans and 
was published immediately after their arrival. As they were not published as "com- 
municated" matter, it is extremely unlikely that they were written by any other pen, 
even were there no authority for ascribing them to Whitman. In addition, the internal 
evidence is so strong as to be practically conclusive in itself. Curiously enough, the 
first and longest of these sketches was not mentioned by Mr. Dart in his article, since 
(as appeared upon investigation) he had examined only the file of the Crescent in the 
Hunter Memorial Library, which happened to lack the first number. A complete file 
is to be seen in the Library of the Louisiana Historical Society. This oversight on the 
part of Mr. Dart, whose work is otherwise careful, became the basis for the erroneous 
assertion, made both by Professor George Rice Carpenter and by Professor Perry 
(whose information was obtained from Professor Carpenter), to the effect that the 
Crescent was first issued on March 6 — a curious though trifling error. 

These three sketches are here numbered and dated as in the Crescent, but, as the third 
obviously should precede the second, the Crescent's accidental or careless twisting of the 
travel-story is here corrected so as not to confuse the reader. 


and discordant screams surrounded us, and we were all but torn 
in pieces by the assault, as it were! Recovering from the first 
shock of such an unexpected salute, we found that there were 
several "hotels,' ' each moved by a bitter rivalry for getting the 
passengers to eat their dinner. One "opposition house," in 
particular, seemed bent upon proceeding to extremities — and 
most of the passengers were fain to go quietly in. For a good 
dinner here, the price was only twenty-five cents. 

Cumberland, at which we arrived about sunset, is a thriving 
town, with several public edifices, a newspaper or two, and those 
[institutions] invariably to be found in every western and south- 
ern community, some big "hotels." The town has a peculiar char- 
acter, from its being the great rendezvous and landing place of 
the immense Pennsylvania wagons, and the drovers from hun- 
dreds of miles west. You may see Tartar-looking groups of 
these wagons, and their drivers, in the open grounds about, — 
the horses being loosed — and the whole having not a little the 
appearance of a caravan of the Steppes. Hundreds and hun- 
dreds of these enormous vehicles, with their arched roofs of 
white canvas, wend their way into Cumberland from allq uar- 
ters, during a busy season, with goods to send on eastward, and 
to take goods brought by the railroad. They are in shape not a 
little like the "Chinese junk," whilom exhibited at New York — 
being built high at each end, and scooping down in the waist. 
With their teams of four and six horses, they carry an almost 
incalculable quantity of "freight"; and if one should acci- 
dentally get in the road-ruts before their formidable wheels, 
they would perform the work of a Juggernaut upon him in most 
effectual order. The drivers of these vehicles and the drovers 
of cattle, hogs, horses, &c, in this section of the land, form a 
large slice of "society." 

Night now falling down around us like a very large cloak of 
black broadcloth, (I fancy that figure, at least, hasn't been used 
up by the poets 1 ) and the Alleghanies rearing themselves up 
"some pumpkins" 2 (as they say here,) right before our nasal 
members, we got in to one of the several four-horse stage coaches 

'Du Bartas came very near it in "Night's black mantle covers all alike" ("Divine 
Weeks and Works," Sylvester translation, First Week, First Day). The important 
fact, however, is that Whitman has begun his war on the conventionality of existing 
poetry. The early notebook specimens belong to this period. 

*"A term in use at the South and West, in opposition to the equally elegant phrase 
'small potatoes.' The former is applied to anything large or noble; the latter to any 
thing small or mean." (Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," p. 626.) 


of the "National Road and Good Intent Stage Company," 
whereby we were to be transported over those big hills. They 
did the thing systematically, whatever may be said elsewise. 
All the passengers' names were inscribed on a roll, (we purchased 
tickets in Philadelphia, at $13 a head, to go to Wheeling,) and a 
clerk stands by and two or three negroes with a patent weigh- 
ing machine. The clerk calls your name — your baggage is 
whipped on the machine, and if it weighs over fifty pounds, you 
have to pay extra. You are then put in the stage, (literally 
put in, like a package, unless you move quickly,) your baggage 
packed on behind — and the next name called off — baggage 
weighed — and so on to the end of the chapter. If six passen- 
gers desire it, or any smaller number who will pay for six, they 
can wait and have a coach sent with them the next morning, 
or at any hour they choose. One cunning trick of the company 
is, that they give you no check or receipt for your baggage, for 
which they pretend not to be responsible. It is best, there- 
fore, if possible, for each passenger to have some witness to his 
baggage and its amount, in which case, if it be lost, the com- 
pany will have to pay up — whatever they publish to the con- 

So they boxed us up in our coach, nine precious souls, and we 
dashed through the town and up the mountains, with an appar- 
ent prospect of as comfortable a night as could be expected, 
considering all things. One or two of the passengers tried to 
get up a conversational entertainment; one old gentleman, in 
particular, did talk. He resided on a farm in the interior of 
Ohio. He had been on to Washington, (I heard the fact at 
least twenty-five times in the course of that night and the next 
day,) to claim a certain $5,000 from the Government for cap- 
turing a British merchant brig off the coast of Maine, in the 
last war. She got becalmed, or something of that sort, and he 
being thereabout, in command of a fishing smack, sailed or 
rowed up, captured her and brought her into port, where the 
Government functionaries took possession of her and sold her 
cargo for some $30,000. Our old gentleman, however, (not then 
old, of course,) had no privateering papers, and [was] conse- 
quently not a dollar the gainer. He had now been on to Wash- 
ington to see about it, and was in hopes of getting at least his 
share of the sale. (Poor old man ! if he lives till he gets Con- 
gress to pay him, he will be immortal.) This famous old gen- 
tleman moreover informed us that his wife had had thirteen 


children, one in every month of the year, and one over besides — 
all being alive and kicking! He did not know exactly what to 
think about the Mexican war; but he thought that Congress 
might at least grant decent pensions to those who were severely 
maimed in it, and to the widows of both officers and privates 
who were killed. Sage and sound conclusions, thought the 
rest of us too. 1 And here I may say, once for all, that, though 
expecting to find a shrewd population as I journeyed to the 
interior, and down through the great rivers, 2 1 was by no means 
prepared for the sterling vein of common sense that seemed to 
pervade them — even the roughest shod and roughest clad of 
all. A satirical person 3 could no doubt find an ample field for 
his powers in many of the manners and the ways of the West; 
and so can he, indeed, in the highest circles of fashion. But I 
fully believe that in a comparison of actual manliness and what 
the Yankees call "gumption," the well-to-do citizens (for I am 
not speaking so much of the country,) particularly the young 
men, of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn and so on, 
with all the advantages of compact neighborhood, schools, etc., 
are not up to the men of the West. Among the latter, probably, 
attention is more turned to the realities of life, and a habit 
formed of thinking for one's self; in the cities, frippery and arti- 
ficial fashion are too much the ruling powers. 4 

Up we toiled, and down we clattered, (for the first fifty miles 
it was nearly a// up,) over these mighty warts on the great breast 
of nature. It was excessively cold; the moon shone at intervals; 
and whenever we stopped, I found the ground thickly covered 
with snow. The places at which we changed horses, (which 
was done every ten miles,) were generally long, old, one-story 
houses, with stupendous fires of soft coal that is so plentiful 
and cheap here. In the night, with the mountains on all sides, 
the precipitous and turning road, the large, bare-armed trees 
looming up around us, the room half filled with men curiously 
enwrapped in garments of a fashion till then never seen — and the 
flickering light from the mighty fire putting a red glow upon 
most objects, and casting others into a strong shadow — I can 
tell you these stoppages were not without interest. They might, 

1 Whitman had advocated the granting of homesteads in the West to the veterans 
of this war. (See "The Gathering of the Forces," II, pp. 229-230.) 

*C/. infra, pp. 1 51-152. 

•Possibly a reference to Dickens's "American Notes," which, though distasteful to 
Whitman, the latter forgave his English favourite. 

*,U i? . 3 o 


it seems to me, afford first rate scenes for an American painter — 
one who, not continually straining to be merely second or third 
best, in imitation, seizes original and really picturesque occa- 
sions of this sort for his pieces. 1 There was one of the Alle- 
ghany inns, in particular, that we stopped at about an hour after 
midnight. (All the staging across these mountains, both to and 
fro, is done in the night, which engrafts a somewhat weird char- 
acter upon the public houses — their busy time being from sunset 
to sunrise.) There were some ten or twelve great strapping 
drovers, reclining about the room on benches, and as many 
more before the huge fire. The beams overhead were low and 
smoke-dried. I stepped to the farther end of the long porch; 
the view from the door was grand, though vague, even in the 
moonlight. We had just descended a large and very steep hill, 
and just off on one side of us was a precipice of apparently 
hundreds of feet. The silence of the grave spread over this 
solemn scene; the mountains were covered in their white 
shrouds of snow — and the towering trees looked black and 
threatening; only the largest stars were visible, and they glit- 
tered with a tenfold brightness. One's heart, at such times, 
is irresistibly lifted to Him of whom these august appearances 
are but the least emanation. Faith! if I had an infidel to con- 
vert, I would take him on the mountains, of a clear and beauti- 
ful night, when the stars are shining. 

Journeying in this manner, the time and the distance slipped 
away, until we welcomed the gray dawn of the morning. Half 
an hour more brought us to Uniontown, at the western side of the 
Alleghanies — and glad enough were "all hands" to arrive there. 


[No. 3]* 

Western Steamboats — The Ohio 

Having crossed the Alleghanies during Saturday night, and 
spent the ensuing day in weary stages, from Uniontown onward, 
we arrived at Wheeling a little after 10 o'clock on Sunday night, 
and went aboard the steamer St. Cloud, a freight and packet 
boat, lying at the wharf there, with the steam all up, and ulti- 

1 This call for a native American school of painting was a logical sequel to his demand 
for a native music and drama. Cf. infra, pp. 104-106, 1 52-1 54; post, I, p. 158. 
*From the Daily Crescent, March 10, 1848. 


mately bound for New Orleans. This was my "first appear- 
ance" on a Western steamboat. The long cabin, neatly car- 
peted, and lit with clusters of handsome lamps, had no uncom- 
fortable look; but the best comfort of the matter lay in (what I 
myself soon laid in) a good state room, of which I took posses- 
sion, and forthwith was oblivious to all matters of a waking 
character. Roused next morning by the clang of the breakfast 
bell, I found that we had during the night made a good portion 
of our way toward Cincinnati. 

Like as in many other matters, people who travel on the 
Ohio, (that most beautiful of words!) for the first time, will stand 
a chance of being somewhat disappointed. In poetry and 
romance, these rivers are talked of as though they were cleanly 
streams; but it is astonishing what a difference is made by the 
simple fact that they are always and altogether excessively 
muddy — mud, indeed, being the prevailing character both 
afloat and ashore. This, when one thinks of it, is not only rea- 
sonable enough, but unavoidable in the very circumstances of 
the case. Yet, it destroys at once the principal beauty of the 
rivers. There is no romance in a mass of yellowish brown 
liquid. It is marvellous, though, how easily a traveller gets to 
drinking it and washing in it. What an india-rubber principle, 
there is, after all, in humanity! 

To one who beholds steamboat-life on the Ohio for the first 
time, there will of course be many fresh features and notable 
transpirings. One of the first and most unpleasant, is the want 
of punctuality in departing from places, and consequently the 
same want in arriving at them. All the steamers carry freight, 
that being, indeed, their principal business and source of 
profit, to which the accommodation of passengers, (as far as time 
is concerned) has to stand secondary. We on the St. Cloud, for 
instance, picked up all sorts of goods from all sorts of places, 
wherever our clever little captain made a bargain for the same. 
What he brought down from Pittsburg, the Lord only knows; 
for we took in afterward what would have been considered a 
very fair cargo to a New York liner. At one place, for instance, 
we shipped several hundred barrels of pork; ditto of lard; at 
another place, an uncounted (by me) lot of flour — enough, 
though, it seemed, to have fed half the office-holders of the 
land — and that is saying something. Besides these, we had 
bags of coffee, rolls of leather, groceries, dry goods, hardware, 
all sorts of agricultural products, innumerable coops filled with 


live geese, turkeys, and fowls, that kept up a perpetual farm- 
yard concert. Then there were divers living hogs, to say noth- 
ing of a horse, and a resident dog. The country through which 
the Ohio runs is one of the most productive countries — and 
one of the most buying and selling — in the world; and nearly all 
the transportation is done on these steamboats. Putting those 
two facts together, one can get an idea of the infinite variety, as 
well as amount of our cargo. To my eyes it was enormous; 
though people much used to such things didn't seem to consider 
it any wonder at all. 

About half past 6 o'clock, on board these boats — I begin at 
the beginning, you see — the breakfast bell is rung, giving the 
passengers half an hour to prepare for the table. Of edibles, 
for breakfast, (as at the other meals, too,) the quantity is enor- 
mous, and the quality first rate. The difference is very wide 
between the table here and any public table at the northeast; 
the latter, as many a starved wight can bear testimony, being, 
in most cases, arranged on a far more economical plan. The 
worst of it is, on the Western steamboats, that everybody 
gulps down the victuals with railroad speed. *With that dis- 
tressing want of a pleasant means to pass away time, which all 
travellers must have experienced, is it not rather astonishing 
that the steamboat breakfast or dinner has to be dispatched 
in five minutes? 

During the day, passengers amuse themselves in various ways. 
Cheap novels are in great demand, and a late newspaper is a gem 
almost beyond price. From time to time, the boat stops, 
either for wood or freight; sometimes to pick up a passenger who 
hails from the shore. At the stopping places on the Kentucky 
side, appear an immense number of idlers, boys, old farmers, 
and tall, strapping, comely young men. At the stopping places 
on the northern shore, there seems to be more thrift and ac- 
tivity. The shore, each way, is much of it barren of interest; 
though the period must arrive when cultivation will bend it 
nearly all to man's use. Here and there, already, is a comfort- 
able house; and, at intervals, there are tracts of well-tilled land, 
particularly on the Ohio line. 

In the evening, (the reader must remember that it is not for 
one evening only, but sometimes for ten or twelve,) the passenger 
spends his time according to fancy. In our boat, the St. Cloud, 
the two large cabin tables were sometimes surrounded by readers; 
and the stove by smokers and talkers. The ladies appeared to 


have rather a dull time of it in their place. Most of them would 
sit listlessly for hours doing nothing — and, so far as I could 
learn, saying nothing! 

Among the principal incidents of the voyage was crossing the 
falls of the Ohio, just below Louisville. Our boat was very 
deeply laden; and there is a canal around the ticklish pass; our 
captain, with Western hardihood, determined to go over the 
"boiling place." For my own part, I didn't know till after- 
wards, but that it was an every hour occurence. The bottom 
of the boat grated harshly more than once on the stones be- 
neath, and the pilots showed plainly that they did not feel alto- 
gether as calm as a summer morning. We passed over, how- 
ever, in perfect safety. The Ohio here has a fall of many feet 
in the course of a mile. Does not the perfection to which en- 
gineering has been brought afford some means of remedying 
this ugly part of the river? Besides the canal around on the 
Kentucky side, the Indiana Legislature has lately granted a 
charter for one on its shore, too. 

From Louisville down, one passes through a long stretch of 
monotonous country — not varied at all, sometimes for dozens of 
miles. The Ohio retains its distinctive character of mud, till 
you get to the very end of it. 

Cairo, at the junction of the Mississippi, pointed our passage 
into the great Father of Waters. Immense sums of money 
have been spent to make Cairo something like what a place 
with such a name ought to be. But with the exception of its po- 
sition, which is unrivalled for business purposes, everything 
about it seems unfortunate. The point on which it is situated 
is low, and liable to be overflowed at every high flood. Besides, 
it is unwholesomely wet, at the best. It is doubtful whether 
Cairo will ever be any "great shakes," except in the way of ague. 


[No. 2J 1 

Cincinnati and Louisville 

It may well be doubted whether any large city in Christendom 
can show a more plentiful, or cheaper, supply of what are 

»From the Daily Crescent, March 6, 1848. 

In lapping back over the narrative of the last paper, this article indicates how careless 
Whitman often was as a journalist. He seldom planned ahead, or if he did, he seldom 
carried out his plans. Cf. infra, p.158; post, I, pp. 255, 293. 


termed "provisions" than Cincinnati. All the richest and 
wholesomest products of the earth pour in there, as into a sort 
of cornucopia — all that grows on these farms or is rendered 
from the dairy, or the care of the poulterer. You can buy a 
pair of the fattest sort of chickens, in the markets there, for a 
quarter of a dollar, and many other things that are in proportion. 
If it were possible, though, to make the side bank which rises 
up from the Ohio anything else except the ungainly mud which 
it is nearly all the time, the city in question would be hugely 
the gainer among that large class "people in general." That 
miry bank gives anything but an agreeable character to those 
who see Cincinnati from the river: it could certainly be reme- 
died, and to the profit, too, of passengers, drays, and horses. 
A favorite name for the shops, as a prefix, is that of the "Queen 
City." One may notice many a "Queen City Segar Store," 
and "Queen City Clothing Emporium," etc. The princely in- 
vitation of "Walk In" is also inscribed on about one-third of 
the shop window lights. With New York and New Orleans, 
Cincinnati undoubtedly makes the trio of business places in this 
republic — though Philadelphia must not be forgotten either. 
There are very large and flourishing manufactories at Cincin- 
nati, and the retail stores vie with those of the sea-board. If 
the advice be not considered impertinent, however, we should 
advise the city papers to have the streets cleaned, and kept so, 
"regardless of expense." 

Louisville, one hundred and fifty miles further down on the 
Ohio, is a smaller and considerably quieter city than the one 
above named. It has a substantial look to him who walks 
through it for the first time; and, withal, does not a little busi- 
ness in provisions, too. Most of the boats passing on the Ohio 
rendezvous here — and if it were not for the ugly "falls" just 
below the city, (avoided by a canal on the Kentucky side,) 
doubtless there would be still more from below. Louisville has 
many noble and hospitable citizens, whose family circles make a 
"happy time" for him who gets on visiting terms with them. 1 

1 Whether this observation is based on hear say or on experience I do not know. But 
Cf. infra y p. 24, note. 



Half the newspapers we get from the North 2 have something 
tc say about the " Model Artists," often in a tone of very severe 
condemnation. They say the sight of such things is indecent; 
if that be so, the sight of nearly all the great works of painting 
and sculpture — pronounced by the united voice of critics of all 
nations to be master-pieces of genius — is, likewise, indecent. 
It is a sickly prudishness that bars all appreciation of the divine 
beauty evidenced in Nature's cunningest work — the human 
frame, form and face. 

There may be some petty attempts, in the low by-places, 
which all cities have, to counterfeit these groupings, after a 
vile method. Such, however, are only to be seen by those who 
go especially to see them. Of the graceful and beautiful group- 
ings — most of them — after models in sculpture — exhibited by 
persons of taste and tact, it is hard to see what harm can be 


Our contemporary of the Mobile Herald disagrees altogether 
from some humble remarks of ours, last week, on the subject of 
"Model Artists" — and, (as near as we remember, for the paper 
containing the remarks alluded to has been mislaid,) disagrees 
also from our opinion of the perfect propriety of sculptures and 
paintings after a similar sort with these "Artists." In what we 
said, and in what we have to say, it is not so much about the 
Model Artists, but the general principle, in this country; for 
among the nations on the continent of Europe it has been 
settled long ago. A portion of England holds out still; but they 
do it more from the proverbial obstinacy of John Bull than 
from any other reason. 

The only objection that we conceive of to the undraped figure 
arises from an assumption of coarseness and grossness intended. 

»From the Daily Crescent, March 6, 1848. 

Cf. post, I, p. 194; also II, pp. 5-8. The courageous defense of the nude in art here 
given provoked sharp passage of arms with a writer in the Mobile Herald; see "A Question 
of Propriety" above. 

*Cy. Whitman's description of his duties in the Crescent office, post, II, p. 78. 

8 From the Daily Crescent, March 14, 1848. 


Take away this, and there is no need (in the cases under dis- 
cussion) of any objection at all. Eve in Paradise — or Adam 
either 1 — would not be supposed to shock the mind. Neither 
would the sight of those inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, 
whose nakedness is, or was, the innocent and usual custom. 
Neither does the sight of youth, among us or anywhere else. 
And, so stern and commanding is the potency of genius, even 
over the vulgar, neither do copies of the Venus de Medicis; 
for the prude dare not open his mouth against what the world, 
for many a year, has pronounced divine. It is only when people 
will try hard to think exclusively of what they assume to be a 
grossness intended, that they are "shocked" at such spec- 
tacles. But would not a woman of sense, (to say nothing of a 
man of sense, whose delicacies are not supposed to be so 
super-refined,) even if her education has been rigid in this re- 
spect, do better to take it for granted that no grossness is in- 
tended? Is there any absolute need of directing the mind in 
the worser way ? 

Amid all the works of that Power which, in the most stupen- 
ous systems and the smallest objects in them, shows such un- 
speakable harmony and perfection, nothing can compare with 
the human master-piece, his closing and crowning work! It is a 
master-piece in itself, not as it is furbelowed off by the milliner 
and tailor. 2 Nor would it be altogether uninteresting to pur- 
sue the inquiry how far artificial ideas on the subject of swad- 
dling this work, so much in vogue among civilized nations — and 
barring off the contemplation of its noble and beautiful pro- 
portions — how far, we say, these practices may have aided in 
the effect of diminishing the average amplitude and majesty of 
the form, which effect must be confessed to when comparing 
present times with the age of the old Grecians and Latins. 

As for the Model Artists, we know excellent women, and 
men, too, who have attended their performances with rational 
gratification. We have witnessed them 3 with the like result. 
It is somewhat a matter of taste, however; and we do not wish 
to quarrel with anybody because his taste differs from ours. 
In conclusion, it may be well to state that there are perhaps, in 
bye-places, exaggerated exhibitions of these groupings — as 

»Itwas obviously reasoning such as this which suggested to Whitman the collective 
title for his poems of sex and nakedness, "Children of Adam." Cf. "Complete Prose," 
pp. 296-300. 

*Cf. post, I, pp. 245-246. 

*Cf. "Complete Prose," p. 440. 


gluttony or drunkenness is the depravity of a wholesome appe- 
tite. Such, from what we hear, are so abominable as to be 
beneath even the merit of condemnation. 1 


There is no actual need of a man's travelling around the 
globe in order to find out a few of the principles of human na- 
ture. The observer needn't even go to a college or a primary 
school, but if he is determined to supply himself with knowledge, 
let him visit the precincts of some of our "first-rate, tip [-top]" 
bar-rooms on Saturday or Sunday night. 3 

The young gentleman with the shiny black coat and the 
unexceptionable pantaloons is the very pink of propriety. He 
is very particular about the quality of the crepe that he wears 
upon his hat, and is excessively fond of mild Havana segars. 
He invariably uses a toothbrush with an ivory handle, and is 
partial to watering-places in the summer-time, and gambling 
houses when the "Norwegian season" takes place. A large 
diamond brest-pin and a massive gold chain attached to a gal- 
vanized watch are generally his ornaments. The cockpit for 
him is a favorite place of resort, and he occasionally "splurges" 
himself at a game of cards. When the yellow fever season com- 
mences, the gentleman in question darts like an arrow north- 
ward, and spends his summer at Saratoga or Niagara Falls. 

Now yonder is an elderly gentleman, who seems to desire to 
bite the head off a gold-mounted cane. By way of varying his 
mode of enjoyment, he occasionally twirls his watch-seal and 
about twice in every half hour motions the bar-keeper to mix 
him a brandy toddy. Gentlemen of this class generally live in 
the West, in South America, or Mexico. This description of 
gentlemen are generally adepts in all matters pertaining to 
horse-flesh, and in the selection of Bowie knives and shooting- 
galleries, are philosophers "beyond compare." Their con- 

x The Herald writer returns to the attack, insisting on discussing the matter as it re- 
lates to the voluptuous passions. To Whitman this seems to beg the point and he re- 
fuses, ending his part in the discussion with this curt dismissal: "He or she is the best 
conservator of purity who starts from the point of the innate purity of nature; it is only 
the vulgar who draft coarse ideas thereon. Shall the Arts be brought to the test of 
such ideas? Shall the high come down to the low?" 

2 From the Bail) Crescent ', March 10, 1848. 

z Cf. infra, p. 148;, post, II, pp. 103, 221, passim. 


versational powers are generally devoted to descriptions of 
duels, awful conflicts by sea and land, and stories of how bluff 
old Major So-and-So gave a terrible flogging to Col. This-and- 
That more than twenty years ago. 

How gracefully he leans back in his chair, and what a "Count 
D'Orsay" 1 fling there is to his blue broadcloth cloak! How 
beautifully the gold spectacles set upon his pallid proboscis! — 
and his teeth — why, bless us! they glisten like pearls. See, he 
inserts a silver tooth-pick between the interstices of his ivories, 
and smiles as though he felt extremely happy. What can he be 
thinking of? A theory on the principle of gravitation — some 
beautiful idea collated from the philosophy of Emanuel Sweden- 
borg, 2 or the price of putty? Of neither — he is thinking of 
nothing but the extraction of corns, of Mesmerism, and the 
consequences of chloroform. The gentleman alluded to will 
make money, buy a big seal ring, cultivate an imperial, go to 
Europe, get dubbed a Professor of almost anything in the way of 
Science or Art, bring a troupe of "Model Artists" 3 across the 
Atlantic, and become the "lion of the day." 

That young man with the bandy legs who is standing with his 
back to the stove has just arrived from New York. He prides 
himself upon the neatness of the tie of his crimson neck-cloth, 
and professes to be a connoisseur in everything relating to pea- 
nuts. Whilst he puffs the smoke of a remarkably bad segar 
directly underneath your nostrils, he will discourse most learn- 
edly about the classical performances in the Chatham Theatre, 4 
and swear by some heathen god or goddess that "Kirby 5 was 
one of 'em, and no mistake." This is one of the "b'hoys of the 
Bowery." He strenuously contends that Mr. N. P. Willis 
is a humbug — that Mike Walsh 6 is a "hoss," 7 and that the 

Alfred D'Orsay (1801-1852), a French leader of fashion. 

* Probably Whitman knew something already of the Swedish mystic. Cf. post, II, 
pp. 16-18. 

*Cf.infra,ipp. 191-193. 

«In New York. 

6 James Hudson Kirby (1819-1848), an actor in Shakespearean and melodramatic 
roles, who made his American debut in 1840, went to London in 1845 an d became a 
popular idol at the Surrey Theatre, and died about the time of his intended return to 

"Michael Walsh, popularly known as "Mike" Walsh, was an ordinary carter who by 
means of his gifts as an orator and his fearless championship of the rights of the masses 
in Tammany Hall and elsewhere, became a "Locofoco" leader and a member of Con- 
gress. (See "Sketches of the Speeches and Writings of Michael Walsh including his 
Poems and Correspondence," New York, 1843.) 

7 "A man remarkable for his strength, courage, etc. . A vulgarism peculiar to the 
West." (Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," p. 298.) 





*J ; 





Of the Pfaffian days, probably from Whitman's own pencil. The 
sketch and the caricature at the left, at least, are studies of the 
poet himself. 


Brigadier 1 "ain't no where." The great probability is that the 
"b'hoy" 2 in question never saw either of the gentlemen that he 
attempts to lampoon. The vista of his imagination certainly 
does not extend beyond Baton Rouge. 

A hickory stick and a hickory soul — both are stern and stal- 
wart — both are firm and honest. Commend us to the old grey- 
haired farmer, whose withered fingers grasp with an iron clutch 
his trusty cane! Who would believe it? That old man is the 
father of a Senator! He subscribes for the Union and Na- 
tional Intelligencer, and many a times his eyes are brightened 
with the "silver tears of joy," when he hears the name of his 
first-born mentioned. The cultivation of potatoes and turnips, 
the threshing of the little stock of wheat, and the sale of the 
little field of corn, brought money to send the son to college. 
Intense energy, application to study, determination and indus- 
try made the farmer's son a shining light amongst his fellows. 
The good old farmer! his son discusses questions of the greatest 
importance at Washington — tells Robert Peel and John Russell 
that they are entirely wrong — cautions Louis Philippe against 
some European policy, and requests Prince Metternich to be 
upon his guard lest he should fail in his diplomatic conclusions. 
Turnips and talent — potatoes and politics — "pumpkins" (some) 
and professions! 

The parlor of the hotel we will not enter, but when we have 
a pen, virgin — so far as ink is concerned — any quantity of satin 
paper with gilded edges, and a few gallons of cologne, we shall 
endeavor to describe the peculiarities of those chosen mortals 
who will live above board — or, at least above the bar-room. 


In all ages of the world glory and power have been rewards 
of the successful warrior. Among the wandering tribes of the 
steppes of Tartary and sands of Arabia, as well as among the 
polished people of western Europe, and the naked savages of 
North America, the best soldier has always been recognized as 
the first man of his time. At this late epoch of the world it 

1 l have been unable to discover whom Whitman had in mind. 

2 A slang term of the period meaning, apparently, a second-rate " fast " young man. It 
was also used as a designation for the younger men in the Tammany organization, 
though there it was spelled in the ordinary way. 

3 From the Daily Crescent, March IX, 1848. 


would be idle to try to change public opinion as to the uncom- 
mon merits of a man who has skilfully led the armies of his 
country against her enemies — who has never fought but against 
fearful odds, and yet has always been victorious. Nor do we 
wish to lessen the admiration for superior generalship and skill 
in the conduct of war. A long experience teaches us that it is 
man's nature to praise and exalt the virtues and qualities which 
make up the character of the triumphant hero; and as we indulge 
in no visionary hopes of remodelling human nature, we desire 
rather to direct its propensities into proper channels than to 
dam them up or destroy them altogether. To turn the spread- 
ing branches of human passions into new and proper directions 
is the aim of the philosopher and philanthropist; to cut down the 
tree or tear it up by the roots is the attempt of the dreamer and 
the fool. 

He is but a poor lawgiver who legislates only for the reason 
and understanding, without remembering that men are also 
endowed with the faculties of imagination. "Let me make the 
ballads of a nation and I will make its laws," x was a declara- 
tion suggested by the fact that the reasons of men are inferior 
to and under the control of their imaginations. It is a common 
observation that in early ages and among savage tribes, the 
poet, the priest and the warrior exercise more influence over 
men's minds than the statesman and legislator; but this re- 
mark is generally qualified by saying that as knowledge and 
civilization advance, the power of the latter increases while 
that of the former diminishes. But is man's nature changed, 
either by a progress from the savage to the civilized state, or 
by a relapse from civilization to savagism? Believing that the 
man is always stronger than the circumstances which surround 
him — that his nature is bounded by a circle beyond which the 
forces of matter cannot thrust him — we cannot suppose that 
the relative strength of reason and imagination is at all modified 
by the chances and changes of what we choose to denominate 
civilization and refinement. No! Man is the same in all his 
essential qualities — in the power of his reason and the vigor 
of his imagination — whether he struts in pantaloons or stalks 
in all the dignity and grace of primeval nakedness. 

*"I knew a very wise man that believed that if a man were permitted to make all 
the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation." Andrew Fletcher 
of Saltoun, in a letter to the Marquis of Montrose. (Bartlett, "Familiar Quotations," 
ioth edition, p. 281.) 


So long, then, as men are men, will they continue to love 
the pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war — so long 
will they admire the leaders of armies and the gainers of vic- 
tories. Quakerism can never become the creed of the race; 
and you might as well expect all men to adopt the straight-cut 
coat and plain phraseology of the followers of Fox, as to hope 
that the principles of peace will ever become the law of men's 
opinions and actions. Is it to be supposed that the framers 
of our constitution ever made such a chimera the basis of our 
civil liberties? Can we believe that the sagacity of the mem- 
bers of the Convention had not more correctly perceived the 
true nature of man than to create for him a Government inca- 
pable of enduring all the attacks of the ordinary passions of man- 
kind? Much as the benevolent heart of Franklin might have 
wished for the arrival of the second golden age, when the "lion 
and the lamb shall lie down together," and men will dwell with 
each other in peace and harmony, could his practical under- 
standing have sanctioned a system of Government whose ex- 
istence would be endangered by the expression of one of the 
strongest and most decided tendencies of our minds? Let 
us rather believe that our constitution was framed by those 
who understood human nature as thoroughly as any set of 
statesmen ever did; that they were men not only deeply read in 
the lessons of the past, but also profoundly observant of the facts 
of the present. They had not only meditated the words of 
sages and philosophers; their souls had also been kindled to a 
glow by the inspiration of the bards who sang the glories and 
triumphs of combat. Many of them had been actors in the 
field as well as in the cabinet; and he who presided over them 
was "first in war" as well as "first in peace and first in the 
hearts of his countrymen." 1 

We are not, then, of those who think of the permanency of 
our institutions as at all threatened by our disposition to admire 
great generals and elevate them to the Presidency. It is the 
very practical nature of our government — its capability of 
adaptation to all states and phases of the human mind — its 
perfect fitness for man as he is, independent of any ideal condi- 
tions at which he may hope to arrive — that enables us to feel se- 
cure during the highest excitement of the whole people. No 
matter whether the nation be violently agitated by the spirit 
of party, or deeply moved by the feeling of gratitude which 

1 Henry Lee's "Eulogy on Washington," December 26, 1799. 


prompts it to bestow the highest honors on him who has 
gallantly led the armies of the republic, we have full confidence 
in the power of the constitution to outlive any gust of passion 
or feeling. 1 The wisest man is often provoked to anger, and 
daily weeps his inability to govern his appetites and passions; 
but the storms of passion are transient, and when they pass 
away leave his wisdom high and pure like a mountain-top seen 
in the distance, and serving as a guide for the traveller. 

But while we have none of those fears by which others are 
actuated when lamenting the tendency of the American people 
to elevate military chieftains to the Presidency, we sincerely 
deprecate the effort to raise any man to that high office, merely 
because he has shown courage and skill in manoeuvring men, 
horses, and cannon. To be sure, it is no despicable talent 
which enables a man to exercise these faculties — the rather in- 
ferior qualities of even a general — with tact and success. We 
may assume, if you please, that the same capacity for adminis- 
tration is requisite in the head of an army as in the head of a 
people, though the assumption is falsified by many and great 
examples in history not a hundred years back. We will admit 
that all the moral and intellectual requisites of a President may 
be found in a good general — that the general has the quick per- 
ception, the sure yet rapid judgment, the firm will, the steady 
devotion to the public good so necessary in a President of the 
United States. Still, we cannot arrive at the conclusion that 
it is always best to make a President out of such a general. 
For to do so is, in some measure, to turn from its proper use the 
high office created by our fathers for certain great purposes. 
It is to change into an office of reward for military merit that 
which was intended for a place of duty and labor. The 
President has certain functions assigned him by the Constitu- 
tion — functions arduous and difficult. His Excellency's chair 
is a hard and thorny seat — not a couch wreathed round with 
laurels, on which the soldier may recline after the toils and 
struggles of a successful campaign. While then we have no 
fear of a general ever using the Presidency as a means of over- 
turning our free institutions, we have a great disinclination to 
turning the White House into a sort of Pension Palace, to 
which our triumphant generals may retire and amuse them- 
selves and the country with four years administration of our 
Federal government. 

x Cf. infra t pp. 159-160. 





To illustrate the "life, fortune, and sacred honor" of the 
distinguished individual whose name heads off our present 
sketch of noted characters, is a task as tasteful as it is agree- 
able. The duty of the faithful chronologist and biographer is 
particularly a cheerful one when the subject of such notice is 
calculated to heighten the interest we feel in the dignity and 
delicate sensibilities of human nature. 

Funk, like all other illustrious personages who have become so 
well known, as no longer to need the titulary soubriquet of 
Mister, was born and brought up — no one knows where: at 
least the information we have on this point is exceedingly un- 
certain and contradictory. Without, therefore, descending into 
the particulars of his early training and history, or minutely 
tracing up the rationale of cause and effect, by showing that a 
youth of moral proclivity will, in time, run into that species 
of moral gum-elasticity which goes to constitute the blood and 
bones of individuals comprising his genus, we shall proceed at 
once, in medias res, as the boys say at college, and make known 
to you, gentle reader, that Peter Funk is a young gentleman 
"about town" who holds the highly responsible office of by- 
bidder in a Mock Auction — being engaged to said work by " the 
man wot sells the watches." 

You're a gentleman of leisure about New Orleans, may be, 
stranger, and lounging about street. You hear the musi- 
cal sound of the "human voice divine," crying out "fivenaff, 
five-n-aff — only going at twenty-five dollars and-n-a-ff for this 
elegant gold watch and chain, in prime running order, just 
sent in by a gentleman leaving town, and only five-n-aff! Did I 
hear you say six, sir?" 

Perhaps you drop in, and if you are not careful how you look 
at the musical auctioneer he will accept of your look for a wink, 

^rom the Daily Crescent, March 13, 1848. 

" Decoys at mock auctions are called Peter Funk. . . . It is an open question as 
to whether this name for a by-bidder was really borne by an individual." (John S. 
Farmer, in his "Americanisms Old and New," London, 1889, p. 53.) It is quite possible 
that the idea of this sketch was suggested to Whitman by Asa Greene's "The Perils of 
Pearl Street, By a Late Merchant," New York, 1834. Chapters VII and XIV deal with 
"Peter Funk." 


and, according to the philosophy of the auction room, a wink 
passes for a bid, and you find yourself in the nominal possession 
of "an elegant gold watch and chain, in prime running order, 
just sent in to be sold by a gentleman leaving town," before 
you are well aware of what you are about. So take care how you 
look when you are in the patent auction shops. There stands 
the auctioneer in all the serious earnestness of a man begging for 
his life, and, with voice and looks and gestures, seems like one 
speaking sober truth, and "nothin' else." Only half a dozen 
individuals comprise his audience, and these half a dozen are 
Peter Funk and his corps de reserve. Peter looks somewhat 
stouter to-day than he was yesterday, and has exchanged his 
cloth cloak and cap for a blanket coat and chapeau Mane, and his 
whiskers have shared the fate of "the last rose of summer" — 
that is to say, they have evaporated — dropped off: thev are 
non est inventus — gone ! 

Yes, that's Funk and his five interesting associates in busi- 
ness — "companions of his toil, his feelings, and his fame" — 
Peter the ist, Peter the 2d, Peter the 3d, Peter the 4th and 
Peter the 5th — he himself being no other than Peter the Great, 
or the Great Peter — "Peter Funk, Esq." 

Now, stranger, take care what you're about — you're the only 
bona fide customer — if customer you choose to call yourself — 
that has entered the portals of the auction shop as yet, and 
Peter Funk Primus and Peter Funk Secundus have done all 
this bidding that makes the crier keep up such a hubbaboo. 
Well, you don't know of this fact, and you think "a man's man 
for a' that," 1 and you don't understand the secret of Peter Funk 
and his associates, or the service they're engaged in, and you 
only see a fine-looking watch, "just sent in to be sold by a gen- 
tleman leaving town," and going dog cheap. You nod your 
head, and straightway the countenance of the crier brightens 
up, and his voice grows even more vociferous than before. He's 
got a bid — a real bid — and the first and only one. He tacks on 
five dollars more, and now he's heard going it in fine style: 
"Thirty, thirty, thirty, thirty, thirty — only going at thirty 
dollars for a splendid elegant gold lever, with seventeen pairs 
of extra jewels, lately imported, and now must be sold ! " 

He cries on at this rate for perhaps ten minutes, occasionally 
casting a glance at the passers-by to see if any greeneys can be 
tolled in. Peter Funk takes the watch in his hand and examines 

^rom Burns's "A Man's a Man for a' That." 


it attentively, and with a very significant look, as though his 
judgment was perfectly satisfied, he says deliberately, "Thirty- 

"Against you, sir," cries Mr. Auctioneer, and forthwith sets 
off with unusual volubility, crying out ore rotundo, "thirty- 
five, thirty-five — only going at thirty-five!" 

"Thirty-five dollars for such an elegant gold watch is cer- 
tainly cheap as dirt — they ask eighty-five or ninety at the 
stores"; and as these thoughts revolve in your mind, you think 
you might as well make five and twenty dollars as well as not, 
as there are plenty of boys up in your county who would jump 
at the bargain — and you nod again, the auctioneer having in 
the meantime directed the whole force of his vocable artillery 
at you, and launched forth in such a rigamarole of praise of 
said time-piece that you couldn't well resist his very passionate 

"Forty dollars!" is quickly caught up. "Only going at forty 
dollars! — forty! forty! forty! forty!" and now the cryer turns 
to Peter, the interesting Peter, whose turn for serious deliberation 
has again come. He again examines the watch, turns it over 
and over again, and, as he hands it up to the cryer, says, in a 
very low but decided tone of voice, "forty-five!" 

By this time one or two other loungers like yourself have 
dropped in, and monsieur cryer applies himself with exceeding 
earnestness in lauding the watch, as never, sure, watch was 
lauded before, except perhaps at a patent auction. 

While you are revolving in your mind whether "to go" the 
fifty, some other greeney from one of the upper parishes, or may- 
be from Mississippi, with his pockets full of money, cries out 
"fifty, by G — d!" and you are relieved from what would have 
been a very dear bargain to you — the invoice price of said 
"elegant gold lever" having been only $17.50. Like Hodge's 
razors, they are "made to sell," and many are the green 'uns 
that are bit, by the "persuasive speech" of the auctioneer, and 
still more persuasive biddings of his interesting coadjutor in this 
pretty business, Peter Funk, Esq., the subject of our present 

I was pretty well acquainted with Funk before he went into 
the "auction and commission business"; we boarded a while 
together at the same house. Since his embarkation into the busi- 
ness of buying watches, we have grown offish with one another: 
he never knows me in the auction room, though we may be 


standing side by side; and, to tell the truth, I hardly know him 
half the time in the various disguises he assumes, for he scarcely 
ever dresses the same for two days in succession — being in 
cap, cloak and whiskers on one day, and the next aliased up in a 
white or green blanket. Some say he was from Old Kentuck, 
and others again aver he is a North Carolina Tennessean; while 
"other some" allege him to have been a direct importation 
from the nethermost corner of Down East — having resided a 
year or two in Texas by way of a seasoning — and that he is an 
"own cousin" of the "rat man," and also of kin to him "wot 
cleans coat collars." Of this I can say nothing — but am of 
opinion that if ever Peter Funk received a "fotching up" ac- 
cording to old-fashioned New England Puritanism, he must 
have become amazingly warped in his morals ere he reached the 
latitude of Louisiana. 

To sum up the character I have to give of Peter Funk, I shall 
simply say that he at present thrives well, and will make a 
business man of himself if he keeps on. He is one of those men 
who reverse the saying of Hamlet, that "conscience makes 
cowards of us all." 1 Peter's conscience makes no coward of 
him — argaly Peter '11 be rich one of these days. It's a bad thing 
to have 

"The native hue of resolution 
Thus sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." 2 

and Peter takes none of these sickly thoughts, or any other con- 
sideration, "for the morrow," except it be what coat or what 
colored whiskers he shall put on. 


Miss Dusky Grisette is the young "lady" who takes her 
stand of evenings upon the pavement opposite the St. Charles 
Hotel, for the praiseworthy purpose of selling a few flowers by 
retail, showing ofT her own charms meanwhile, in a wholesale 
manner. She drives a thriving trade when the evenings are 

i"Hamlet", III, i, 83. 

» Ibidem, III, I, 84-85. 

3 From the Daily Crescent, March 16, 1848., II, p. 185. 

Horace Traubel reports ("With Walt Whitman in Camden," II, p. 283) Whitman as 
saying of this type of New Orleans society: "I have been in New Orleans— known, 
seen, all its peculiar phases of life. Of course my report would be forty years old or so. 


pleasant. Her neat basket of choice bouquets sits by her side, 
and she has a smile and a wink for every one of the passers-by 
who have a wink and a smile for her. 

Mademoiselle Grisette was "raised" in the city, and is pretty 
well known as a very pretty marchande des fleurs. She can 
recommend a tasteful bunch of posies with all the grace in the 
world, and her "buy a broom" style of addressing her acquaint- 
ance has, certainly, something very taking about it. She 
possesses pretty eyes, a pretty chin, and a mouth that many an 
heiress, grown oldish and faded, would give thousands for. The 
em bon point of her form is full of attraction, and she dresses 
with simple neatness and taste. She keeps her eyes open and 
her mouth shut, except it be to show her beautiful teeth — 
ah, her's are teeth that are teeth. She has sense enough to 
keep her tongue quiet, and discourses more by "silence that 
speaks and eloquence of eyes" than any other method — herein 
she is prudent. 

Grisette is not "a blue" by any means, rather a brune, or, 
more prettily, a brunette — "but that's not much," 1 the Vermil- 
lion of her cheeks shows through the veil, and her long glossy 
hair is nearly straight. There are many who affect the brune 
rather than the blonde^ at least when they wish to purchase a 
bouquet — and as 

Shows stars and women in a better light," 2 

they have a pleasant smile and a bewitching glance thrown into 
the bargain whilst purchasing a bunch of posies. 

What becomes of the flower-girl in the day time would be 
hard to tell: perhaps it would be in bad taste to attempt to find 

The Octaroon was not a whore, a prostitute, as we call a certain class of women here — 
and yet was too: a hard class to comprehend: women with splendid bodies — no bustles, 
no corsets, no enormities of any sort: large, luminous, rich eyes: face a rich olive: habits 
indolent, yet not lazy as we define laziness North: fascinating, magnetic, sexual, ignorant, 
illiterate: always more than pretty — 'pretty' is too weak a word to apply to them." He 
goes on to express the opinion that race amalgamation in the South is unlikely. 

In revealing his growing sensitiveness to woman's physical beauty, a sensitiveness 
which had cropped out in more than one Eagle editorial, Whitman not only reflects the 
influence of his new and romantic environment, but also reveals how far he has travelled 
from the Jamaica days in which he could declare his absolute ignorance of woman {see 
infra, p. 37). That the "caresser of life" here dominates the puritan appears from the 
substitution of a romantic or a satirical attitude for the youthful and unrelenting serious- 
ness which underlay most of his previous writing. 

l Cf. "yet that's not much," "Othello," III, 3. 
Byron's "Don Juan," Canto II, Stanza 152. 


out. She is only interesting in character and association. 
Standing at, or reclining against, the door-cheeks of a store, 
with the brilliancy of the gas light falling favorably, and per- 
haps deceptively, upon her features and upon her person, with 
her basket of tasteful bouquets at her feet, and some of the 
choicest buds setting off her own head-dress. As such she looks 
in character as a jolie grisette, as she is, and will excite the 
notice of those who, beneath the light of the sun, and in the 
noontide gaze of men, would spurn and loathe such familiari- 
ties. Poor Grisette therefore slinks away to some retired hole 
or corner when the witching hours of gas light have passed by, 
and when the walkers upon the streets have grown tired of 
wandering, and with noise, [and] have thrown themselves upon 
their beds for repose. She sells her flowers, and barters off 
sweet looks for sweeter money; and with her empty basket 
upon her head, she takes up "the line of march" for her humble 
home, along with "daddy" who, being ever upon the safe look- 
out, has come for her. 

Perhaps, in the morning, she sells coffee at one of the street 
corners, to the early draymen, who have an appetite for the 
regaling draft — becoming "all things to all men" in changing 
tout a fait her set of customers. In this last employment, she 
sylph-like puts on the air and manner of drudgery. Habited in 
a plain frock, with a check apron, and with her head "bound 
about" by a cotton handkerchief, she retails bad coffee at a 
picayune a cup, with an air of nonchalance entirely suited to the 
calling and to the customers. Hard-working men like draymen, 
want coffee and not glances — they need the stomach and not 
the appetite to be feasted. Grisette, therefore, acts well her 
part. Flowers and fancy for the upper ten thousand, in the 
glow and excitement of evening and gas-light — but neither airs 
nor graces attend her, nor do flowers deck her hair as, by day- 
light, in the cool of the morning, she repairs to her accustomed 
stand, with her tin coffee urn upon her head. 1 

During the day, perhaps she assists her mother, in street, 

who is a very respectable washer-woman, and highly esteemed 
for those exceedingly desirable qualifications, namely — the 
rendering of linen white and well starched. And thus, Made- 

1 Whitman himself was fond of taking his morning coffee {cf. infra, p. 34) at the old 
French market from the shining kettle of a mulatto woman; but his description of her 
(" Complete Prose,"p. 440) does not agree with his description of " Miss Dusky Grisette." 
Cf. also post> I, p. 213. 


moiselle Grisette fills up a very clever place of usefulness. In- 
stead of degenerating into a mere dowd, as so many beauties 
become during the unenchanting hours of day-light, lounging 
the time away, from sofa to rocking-chair, and from rocking- 
chair back to sofa again, with some trifle of a novel in their 
hands, Grisette, who does not know a letter in the book, and is 
thence fortunately secure against the seductions of popular 
literature ', betakes herself, with hearty good will, to the wash- 
tub; and they do say that her cousin Marie and herself have 
rare fun whilst splashing among the suds, in detailing the numer- 
ous conquests they (poor things!) supposed [themselves] to have 
made in the flower market the evening before. 


It is almost with fear and trembling, "I take my pen in hand," 
to attempt the portraiture of this fearful son of Mars, whose 
very name is almost enough to 

Freeze my young blood, 

Make each particular hair to stand on end, 
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine." 8 

We do not say that our hero lives in New Orleans now, but 
he "used to did," and that's enough for a chap whose business 
it is to make "Sketches." He lived here once upon a time, and 
flourished extensively — went to the Legislature and to Con- 
gress, for aught we know — that is, the Congress of Texas, while 
that "lone star" was shining with bedimmed lustre in the politi- 
cal firmament. 

Squire Bowieknife emigrated, some years ago, to a village 
in Mississippi from one of the Carolinas. He was a limb of 
the law, and by dint of an abundance of swagger, in a short time 
fought his way into notice. There are parts of Mississippi 
where a man may graduate into public favor, through the 
merits of gunpowder, with a rapidity that is astonishing. It 
requires a peculiar conformation and organization — a fitness 
of things, as it were — to constitute an individual who can thrive 
upon sharp steel and patent revolvers, but Bowieknife was the 
man, and "he went it with a rush." 

1 From the Daily Crescent, March 23, 1848. 
*Cf. "Hamlet," I, 5, 16-20. 


Thence, he found his way to Orleans, and now has gone to 
Texas, followed by the ghosts of no less than six hale, hearty 
men, at least, that were such before his "bloody-minded" 
shooting irons made daylight shine through them. Never did 
man stand more upon a point of honor than he did: he would 
cavil upon the hundredth part of a hair if he thought a bit of a 
fight was to be got out of his antagonist: and upon the most 
trifling misunderstanding in the world, he would attack you 
in a " street fight," or "call you out" and shoot you down, as 
though your life were of no more value than a cur dog's. Oh, 
he was a brave fellow, and people were afraid of him, and we 
cannot wonder at it. 

But it so happened, that the Hon. Daggerdraw Bowieknife 
was not, by any manner of means, so punctual in meeting his 
own little liabilities as he was in being first upon the ground 
to take part in the murderous duel — in other words, he was one 

of those "d d highminded, honorable, clever fellows," 

who would rather shoot a man than pay him what he owed him. 
There are such men in the world, and our friend was one of 
them: they pretend to be the very soul of honor, but an hon- 
est debt, such as an honest man would pay with entire punctual- 
ity, these sons of honor "pass by as the idle wind, which they 
regard not." 1 One day, Daggerdraw sallied out from his office 
to take a walk into town. He was armed and equipped, though 
not "according to law," but he was, in common parlance, quite 
"loaded down to the guards" with fashionable killing tools. 
In each pantaloons pocket he carried a small loaded pistol: 
in his bosom, and within reach, was the handle of a large bowie- 
knife, weighing just one pound and a half, one of those murder- 
ous weapons more efficient than the Roman short sword, and 
equally serviceable at cutting or thrusting. Daggerdraw had 
done bloody deeds with it in both ways, as more than one 
individual in Mississippi had experienced to his sorrow. This 
said big butcher-knife had run the rounds of several street 
fights, and was the dearly beloved of its dreaded owner. Whether 
the personal prowess he displayed in its use was a violation of the 
laws of decency and humanity, and befitted him more for the 
society of desperadoes and professional cut-throats, is alto- 
gether another question. No man doubted the bull-dog courage 
of this disciple of Blackstone, but whether any of the sym- 

l Cf. "That they pass by me as the idle wind 

Which I respect not." "Jul'us Caesar," IV, 2, 77. 


pathies of human nature, such as make man the being he is, had 
an abiding place in his ferocious heart, is not for us to say, 
though it may well be supposed there were none. 

Yes, there he goes! and there is blood upon his shirt now, or 
at least there is revenge brooding in his thoughts, and ere long 
the life of some doomed one must pay the forfeit. He is not a 
bad-looking man either, being gentle enough in his dress and 
address, but 

"There was a lurking devil in his sneer, 

That raised emotions both of hate and fear." 1 

His eye was wild and restless, and there was a something in his 
brow that was repulsive. "And the Lord set a mark upon Cain" 
— can it be true that this modern Cain had his mark set upon 
him too? And yet there it was, the stamp and the impress of 
the cruel heart, legibly fixed in the very lineaments of the man's 
face, and no one loved to gaze upon him, for his features had 
that about them to freeze the heart of the beholder. 

Why is it that a false sense of honor requires men to face in 
deadly combat such as Daggerdraw, it were hard to divine. 
Perhaps they suppose, as Bob Acres 2 says, that honor follows 
them to the grave. We are of opinion with Bob's servant, 
that this is the very place one might make shift to do without 
it, and that the honor and applause, such as it is, whips over 
to the adversary. Very well: Squire, take your grand rounds, 
and as you walk the streets, feel secure that men are afraid of 
you, but take good care and don't get afraid of yourself. I've 
heard strange stories about you — how that you never sleep o' 
nights — that you pace the long gallery of your boarding-house 
with restless and uneasy steps, and while others luxuriate in 
the blessings of "tired nature's sweet restorer," 3 sleep is a 
stranger to your eyelids. I have heard that the lone and solemn 
hour of midnight is a terror to you, and that the ghosts of mur- 
dered Banquos will rise mentally to your vision, as a meet 
reward for your deeds of awful transgression, and your disre- 
gard fo the injunction, "Thou shalt not kill." 

Some men become noted, some are celebrated, and others, 

*A misquotation from Byron's "The Corsair," Canto I, Stanza ix. It should read: 
"a laughing Devil." 

*A swaggering coward in Sheridan's "The Rivals." (See Act iv, Sc. i.) 

8 Young's "Night Thoughts," Night I, 1. i. Cj. post, I, p. 223. 


again, have the stamp of notoriety fixed to their names: 1 such is 
the unenviable condition of him whom we have here sketched. 
He has made his mark through life, but it has been in the spirit 
of the pestilence and the destroyer. 


The subject of the present " Sketch" could never by any 
possible mischance be considered as one of the "B'hoys." 
"The lines are fallen to him in pleasant places," and if there is 
any peculiar blessing attached to "the ton," Jinglebrain has a 
chance to enjoy it. 

You see him in St. Charles street, and in the haunts adja- 
cent thereto, and you cannot fail to notice him as remarkably 
distingue in his air and appearance. His coat and his pants, 
his vest and his cravat, his hat and his boots are all remarkably 
"the thing"; and as you observe him at 10 or 12 o'clock in the 
morning, as he issues from some one of the fashionable coiffeurs y 
you would not be far from right in supposing that he had just 
made his escape from under the lid of a band box. His hair is 
"done to a turn," and every individual member of his side locks 
is in its right place, and is, indeed, as slick as grease. His 
whiskers and his moustache are combed and anointed with some 
sweet scented unguent, and he snuffs the atmosphere of St. 
Charles street as though the very breath of heaven was un- 
worthy the patronage of so much clean linen and fine broad- 
cloth, as well as a very extensive swell of personal pretensions. 

Some poet or other — Shakspeare I think — makes allusion 
to one having small pretensions to manhood, that "the tailor 
made him" 3 — and if ever any individual might disclaim ma- 
ternity from the common unclean mother earth, Jinglebrain is 
that man, for clean clothes and bear's grease have made him 
what he is. Nor is it in our nature, or within the bounds of our 
present purpose, to cavil with any man because he dresses in a 
seeming and becoming manner; God forbid — for we ourselves 
luxuriate in clean linen and goodly raiment, and are made glad 

» A paraphrase of "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have great- 
ness thrust upon 'em" {Twelfth Night, II, 5). 

•From the Daily Crescent, March 28, 1848. 
Cf. infra, pp. 162-163; post, I, pp. 245-246. 

% Cf."& tailor made thee," " King Lear," II, 2, 50. 


thereby: but that mortal man should be puffed up in self- 
importance because of his outfit from his tailor-shop, and affect 
a pitiful superiority over his fellows, solely on the grounds of the 
fit of his pants and the sleekness of his hair, is marvellously 
beneath what we ought to expect from the dignity of human 

However, it is to Jinglebrain, not so much as a dandy, nor 
even as a conceited numskull, that we now desire to paint him 
as he is, but as one of your do-nothing, nothing-to-do gentry 
who affect to hold all useful occupations in disgust. 

Man is an eating animal, aye, a drinking one too — were it not 
so, the bar-keepers and the restaurants might suffer. Man, we 
say, is an eating animal, and as such he needs occupation to 
furnish him the wherewith to buy bread and butter, and those 
little daily necessaries, such as food and clothes to wear. The 
merchant toils early and toils late, and not unfrequently 
carries the cares of the counting room to his pillow — the profes- 
sional man is full of anxiety, and very often leads a life which is 
the opposite extreme from pleasure and repose. If we survey 
the streets of our city, we see the sons of toil in their various de- 
grees and standing, and all active in business and bustle, and 
wherefore? Man is an eating animal and a clothes- wearing ani- 
mal, and women and children need sustenance and shelter too. 
There is something noble in filling up an honest and praise- 
worthy sphere of usefulness — in furnishing our quota toward 
the requirements of good citizenship — but what sphere of use- 
fulness does Jinglebrain fill up, what niche of honest industry 
does he occupy? 

It is said that he had a wife once — people say that he had 
more than one, but that he has none now is just the truth and 
"nothing else." There are some little peccadilloes which it 
might be unpleasant to bring to light, and which would under 
such development exceedingly disturb the peace and dignity of 
our friend Jinglebrain — all these deeds and misdoings are wrap- 
ped in the veil of oblivion, or perhaps of an "alias," and now he 
sports his moustache and clean linen per se y and is a gentleman 
of leisure. He has an overflowing purse too, and everybody 
knows how he shuffles and makes shift to keep it replenished. 
No man has a greater horror of the restraints which a business 
occupation imposes than this same dandy whom we are at- 
tempting to "Sketch." He has no ostensible occupation him- 
self — no counting room, no business office, no fortune that he 


has inherited, no " old man " of a father or an uncle who is very 
rich and very indulgent, and yet he always has plenty of 
money — always flourishes in the most fashionable style and 
eats at the most expensive table. 

Philosophers tell us of many wonders in nature — wonders of 
the earth, the air, and the mighty deep; but of all the wonders 
of a wonderful world, the way in which some people live is the 
greatest wonder yet. Jinglebrain boards at one of the crack 
hotels, and after a 10 o'clock breakfast, he patronizes the barber 
for an hour or two, and then dawdles about^ as Fanny Kemble 
would say, until dinner. He plays a game of billiards, whiles 
away an hour at the green-room of one of the theatres, drinks at 
the most fashionable restaurants, and lunches at 12 or i o'clock 
in the most recherche manner imaginable. You see him prom- 
enading the streets, or driving dull care away with a choice re- 
galia and a fresh newspaper, as he lolls in an arm chair on the 
portico of his hotel — he's a "gentleman" in a wonderfully 
good humor with himself and evidently feels his keeping. 

Jinglebrain affects the critic too in literature — he pities the 
poor drudge that writes, but he condescends to notice his pro- 
ductions. He twirls his moustache or puffs his segar with 
exceeding genteel nonchalance as he passes his comment upon 
some work of genius — and all the while too, he, Jinglebrain, is a 
numskull; in learning he has hardly passed "the rudiments," 
and if his pretensions could only be inspected, it would be dis- 
covered that the plus of his self-esteem would be represented 
by a minus in the estimation of others. We have heard it said 
that our friend has but one standard of quality, and that is 
from the skin outwards. His gentlemen are made up of three 
parts: first, broadcloth; second, clean linen; and thirdly, of 
hair. No man without a moustache has ever been known to 
be recognized or [to] receive a street salutation at his hands. 
Multitudes of those who know him at other times and in other 
places receive no look of observation or recognition from him 

What will become of Jinglebrain when he dies we cannot 
say. I am sure no one can tell. There are denunciations and 
there are blessings pronounced on the souls of those who do evil, 
and those also who do well: but what dispensation of mercy 
there is for those who have no souls 3 and who regard only the 
corporeal outside of the living man, we are by no means of suf- 
ficient wisdom to determine. 


(Vender of Oysters in New Orleans) 

There is in all cities bordering nigh unto the sea, a certain 
species of fish ycleped oysters, very much desired by the dwellers 
in said cities, and very much sold by certain individuals, of rare 
peculiarities, called oystermen. 

In this goodly city of New Orleans, (albeit, not so very good 
either,) there abounds a class of worthy citizens, named as 
above, and who exercise the office and administration of fishes 
of this nature, styled, as we have said, oysters. The daily duty 
of these individuals — free citizens of a remarkably free city — 
is to vend by retail the interior fleshy and somewhat savory 
substance of these shell-fish, as above alluded to. The outer 
crust, or envelope of these, being of a tough, unyielding and 
indigestible quality, is rejected and thrown aside as worthless, 
nothing being eaten by the children of men but the puffy con- 
tents thereof. To sell such, is the business and daily care of 
those called, in common language, oystermen — the French 
style them ecaille [ecaillers]. 

It cannot have escaped the notice of the most casual observer 
of men and things, that the streets and well thronged thorough- 
fares abound in certain brick tenements, professedly devoted — 
not the buildings but the occupants — to the preparing and ren- 
dering fit for the mastication of all and sundry reputable citizens 
— at least those who possess the wherewith to pay for them — 
these said shell-fish, fished up by a pair of iron claws out of the 
briny deep. These tenements, bearing aloft the outward insig- 
nia of their rank and condition, are to be found in the crowded 
walks of the city — and he "who runs may read," and he who is 
hungry may pass in and be served, not only to his heart's con- 
tent, but also to his stomach's, which is the best of the bargain. 
We ourselves have refreshed and regaled the "inner man," 
many times and oft by those luxuriating viands compounded by 
those disciples of the illustrious kitchener, paying our quota of 
current coin meanwhile, and going joyfully on our way. But of 
late we have ceased in our visitations to these temples — finding 
that a repletion of the stomach and a similar condition of the 
brain-pan were always in an inverse ratio the one to the other. 

i.From the Daily Crescent, April 4, 1848. 


When the stomach was full of luxury and good eating, the brain 
was empty — barrenness and desolation prevailing throughout 
"the dome of thought, the palace of the soul." 1 In such an 
extremity, having ever been taught to respect mind rather than 
matter, we have preferred to become even as one of "Phar- 
aoh's lean kine," in order to have use and exercise of said article 
of brain. Everybody remembers the story of the old Dutchman 
so happy and so contented, who said that "he chust eats and 
thrinks till he's full, and then he schmokes and schmokes, and 
thinks about notin at all." 

'Tis not, therefore, to these Epicurean depots we refer, or to 
the proprietors thereof — not by any manner of means : they 
are well favored men, which, as Dogberry says, "is the gift of 
nature": 2 they wear black coats and carry canes. These, in the 
strictness of speech, and the bounds of propriety, come not 
under the classification above alluded to. We refer to certain 
graceless sans culottes — no, not sans culottes either, literally, for 
that would be "most senseless and fit" 3 — but in the political 
sense of the term: men, who, in the scale of the social ther- 
mometer, do not reach boiling point by any means. It was to 
this enterprising portion of the body politic that Timothy Gou- 
jon belonged. Long had he lived and labored in the cause of 
science, for he was a practical naturalist — perhaps you may say a 
conchologist — spending his days and his nights among shell- 
fish — he was a vendor of oysters. 

Goujon made his advent in "this breathing world" in the 
city of Bordeaux or in some of the faubourgs thereof. His par- 
ents being grave and close-mouthed people — a national char- 
acteristic — very naturally placed Timothy, when he had come 
to years, at the occupation which he has followed through life — 
namely, a fisher and a vendor of oysters. Of the particulars 
of his crossing the Atlantic, and finding himself erect, like other 
"featherless bipeds," here upon the levee of New Orleans, we 
are sorry we have no well detailed account. Neither he nor his 
parents before him were able to exercise the art of chirography, 
and therefore, of the deeds of his early life — how many times 
with furious grasp upon the iron tongs he has dragged these 
unoffending fishes from their natal bed, or murderously thrust 

» Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," Canto II, Stanza 6. 

*Cf. "To be a well-favoured man is the gift of Fortune, but to write and read comes 
by Nature," "Much Ado About Nothing," III, 3, 15-17. 
* Ibidem, III, 3, 23. 


the knife into their bosoms, and torn them from their comfort- 
able little homes — of these things we are not informed, and 
must therefore, with provoking brevity, remain as mute as this 
same commodity in which he so perseveringly deals. 

We have heard that a year or two ago he involved himself 
in the rent of a small box of a corner shop, where his beautiful 
triangular lantern, covered with red worsted, and bearing the 
inviting inscription of "Always Oysters, fryd, rost £s? in the shel" 
hung out by night as a point of local attraction to the hungry 
and wayfaring, both of which varieties of worthies it is pre- 
sumed every sizeable city contains. This speculation did not 
succeed, and Timothy sold out his stock in trade, including the 
beautiful red worsted emblem of gastronomy, and betook him- 
self independently to the Levee, like a gentleman, where he 
might breathe a purer air, and give exercise to his lungs, at the 
same time vending viva voce the inanimate quadrupeds which 
lay piled up with so much sangfroid in his boat beside him. 

Often, of a Sunday morning, we have heard the melodious, 
guttural voice of Timothy Goujon, in that place in the city of 
New Orleans where men and women do, at this especial hour of 
the week, "most congregate," namely, in the Market-place. 1 
There have we seen and heard the sentimental Goujon trill 
forth harmonious ditty in accents somewhat like the following, 
though it would require a mixture of the French horn and the 
bassoon to grunt out the strain with any degree of exactness, 
especially the chorus: "Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h a bonne marche — 
so cheep as navair vas — toutes frais — var fresh. Ah-h-h un 
veritable collection — jentlemens and plack folks. Ah-h-h 
come and puyde veritable poisson de la mer — de bonne huitres — 

Adieu, Goujon, sell your oysters, and pocket your small 
gains, and live quietly and comfortably, chaqu un a son gout, 
and chaqu un a son gre. 


Stranger, perhaps youVe seen a stout, hardy-looking Hiber- 
nian driving cotton bales along the street. He's a jolly-looking 
fellow, somewhat pitted by the smallpox, cracks his whip in a 

1 Cf. infra, p. 204. 

•From the Daily Crescent, April 18, 1848. 


peculiar manner, and drives a good horse — that's Patrick 

He's a clever fellow, is Pat; and by dint of hard labor and 
plenty of it, supplies his daily wants and the animal necessities 
of five or six small Pats, who look for all the world like chips 
off the old block. 

It needs no "ghost from the grave" to tell us whence came 
Patrick McDray; the thing spakes for itself, for a brogue as 
unerring as the pointing of the needle to the pole. True, he 
has some idea of becoming a native, as he says, of this country, 
seeing he likes it so well; but it is enough for our present purpose 
to acquaint you, reader, that Patrick patronized the "Green 
Isle of the Ocean " when he came floundering, like a great calf, 
into this round world of trouble, where — 

"There's nought but care on every hand, 
In every hour that passes, O." * 

In his own "swate" land he had endured the frowns of an ill- 
natured world for many years, and it was one of the blessed 
chances which occasionally visit the likes of Patrick McDray 
that brought him safe and sound upon dry land on this side of 
the water. 

But not only in the matter of mate and dhrink and clothes 
was Paddy made a fortunate possessor of "virtue, liberty and in- 
dependence" — and all as a natural right and consequence of 
breathing the blessed air that blows through the vales and over 
the hills of our rightful land — but Pat, by his change of soil 
and climate, became a sturdy patriot at the drawing nigh of 
the election. 

Well, we may trace Patrick McDray up one side and down the 
other from his birth and birth place in " the swate Isle," which 
is to the millions, "swate" only in the "uses of adversity;" 2 
we may follow him, we say, from plain Pat all the way up to 
his present improved condition of Mr. Patrick McDray, who 
owns his own team and drives it like a gentleman. It is a re- 
markable thing how a man will pick up, little by little; only give 
him plentyof work and sure pay,and liberty [?] united to "virtue, 

1 From Robert Burns's "Green Grow the Rashes O!" The number of quotations 
from Burns at this time suggests that Whitman may then have been making the ac- 
quaintance of the Scottish poet, whom he praised very highly in an essay many years 
later (see "Complete Prose," pp. 395-402). However, the quotations are not always 
accurately made and may have been culled from memory. 

*"AsYouLikeIt,"II, 1, 14. , 


liberty and independence" will do the balance. But Paddy was 
otherwise united than to the three twin sisters we speak of — 
Paddy had a wife, and Bridget was her name. 

It would be exceedingly unbecoming to invade the sanctity 
of the domestic circle; and we prefer to depict Paddy as he is, 
either in his daily character as drayman, or in his occasional 
duty at the polls; but our picture would scarce be complete 
without one peep at Bridget, for at home she was the very 
"sowl of the cause." 

"O Nature! all thy shows and forms 
To feeling, pensive hearts have charms! 
Whether the summer kindly warms, 

Wi' life and light 
Or winter snows in gusty storms, 

The long dark night!" 1 

An unsophisticated child of nature was Bridget McDray, 
sure enough. She was a mixture of this "kindly summer" and 
"gusty winter," being all brightness and sunshine and good 
humor when things went well; but on the other hand, over- 
darkened with storms, "gusty" enough when ills prevailed. 
A strange compound was Bridget's physiognomy — the extreme 
of good nature and honest frankness was there, and yet as vexa- 
tions are abundant in this "world of care," and abundant too 
in proportion to our yielding to their sway, there was to be seen 
in her visage a trace of a moral storm when furious passion had 
raged and left its lines in her brow and in the drawing down 
the corners of her mouth. Naturally frank to a fault, yet, 
notwithstanding, "they do say" when her "Irish gets up" 
Bridget is "rale Tipperary" over again and can flourish a 
broomstick or her tongue with equal rapidity and violence. O 
but she's a jewel of a wife, is Bridget when "she gets in one of 
her ways." 

Patrick thrives well; he pays his day and way like an honest 
man, and takes good care of his horse Cashel, and this shows 
him to be a gentleman. He puts on his Sunday clothes when 
Sunday comes, and takes a walk upon the Levee by way of a 
variety, and when his wife Bridget "gets high" he just drops 
quietly out of the way and waits till the breeze has blown over 
and this shows him to be a man of wisdom, for in the one case 
a multitude of words would only have "darkened counsel," 

iFrom Robert Burns's " Epistle to William Simpson." 


while giving Bridget the whole house to herself, peace was rap- 
idly declared, there being no enemy to encounter. 

We take our leave of Patrick McDray, wishing him success 
in life and a heap of it. 


It is a fact sufficiently self-evidentj neither to be gainsaid 
or in any manner to be disputed, that there is a deal of sweetness 
in the nature of a woman. Samuel Sensitive had fallen in love 
with one of the sex, and her name was Miss Julia Katydid. 

It was a present to Julia, that Sam had, with due considera- 
tion of the consequences, resolved to abstract forty dollars 
and upward from his oyster and billiard account, and bestow 
it in a beautiful, enameled, filagree, inlaid morceau of bijouterie, 
whose value intrinsically, per se y was perhaps about six bits. 
Sam loved Katydid, and was very anxious, by all honorable 
means, to draw upon himself the heavenly influences of double- 
distilled blessedness in the shape of a sweet woman's love. For 
this purpose he set to work according to the manner and form 
in such cases "made and provided." " Twere long to tell " the 
extent and the variety of Sam's amiability upon this occasion. 

It was a lucky chance for the head clerk of Messrs. Pork, Pro- 
duce & Co., that the star of Katydid rose on his horizon, for 
he was posting the turnpike of iniquity in one of the biggest 
omnibusses that belong to that popular line. But mesmerism, 
in the shape of Cupid, made his "passes" at Sam, and speedily he 
was a "gone hoss." Julia Katydid was a young lady with bright 

^rom the Daily Crescent, May 2, 1848. 

It is perhaps worth noting that this extravagantly and almost vulgarly sentimental 
sketch was published in the Crescent the day following the date announced for the 
masked ball at Lafayette, Whitman's account of which, "A Night at the Terpsichore 
Ball," is reprinted in this volume (pp. 225-228). This coincidence becomes the more 
interesting, if not significant, when we place beside it another. The quotation on 
p. 217, post, is from Burns's "Ae Fond Kiss," addressed to his Nancy, who, it will be 
remembered, was also a married woman. Now, in the conversation with the fair un- 
named of the Terpsichore Ball, Whitman found that she knew all the poets. Is it possi- 
ble that he is here covertly sending her a message through a newspaper, alluding to a 
poem which his inamorata would recognize as appropriate to his feeling and their rela- 
tion, but which the husband, being perhaps less literary, would miss, especially when 
the whole was so soaked in sentimentality as to repell the average reader? Moreover, 
Whitman's picture of Julia departing on a river steamer, leaving her lover to his sad 
meditations, reminds us of Burns's " Behold the Hour," likewise addressed to his Nancy 
on the occasion of her departure for Jamaica to join her husband. There is at times 
something sly and secretive about Whitman, and I do not believe him incapable of such 
an experience as I have suggested; but the evidence is so fragmentary as to have no value 
as proof. See in this connection Biographical Introduction, pp. xlvii fF. 


eyes, very bright raven ringlets, very dark, and ruby lips, like 
cherries, and alabaster neck, and a very nice chin with a dimple 
in it. Wasn't she pretty? 1 

She was the niece of some good lady and she had had a mother 
— one who was a mother, and had brought up this feminine 
jewel of loveliness in a manner to develope the exceeding grace 
of a nature pure and exalted as those blest beings whom, in our 
dreams of fancy, we fondly suppose to hover about the abodes 
of innocence and peace. Those who only know women in the 
haunts and kennels of sensuality, are widely ignorant of the 
real nature of the sex, and while profligacy tends so purely to 
debase and "imbute" [imbrute] the soul, as Milton says, 2 the 
kindly influence of female innocense is like the quality of mercy 
itself, distilling like the gentle rain from heaven, and is indeed 
"twice blessed" whenever and wherever it is exercised. 3 

It is a curious discovery that a young fellow makes when 
first he becomes sensible of the existence of what is poetically 
termed "a heart." He is sick and he isn't sick; something 
is the matter, and he hardly knows what. He sits and sighs, 
while visions of blond lace and fancy ribbons, to say nothing of 
"love darting eyes and tresses like the morn," 4 flit before his 
imagination, and render him very qualmish indeed. Sam never 
made so many blots in his day-book before, and once when he 
should have written " Dried Herrings," in copying an invoice, his 
pen insensibly traced the fair characters of the name of "Julia 
Katydid." He even tried to write poetry, saw beauty in the 
moon and stars, was frequently seen by the watchman to wander 
along the Levee, humming to himself, "O, meet me by moonlight 
alone," 5 or apostrophizing a bale of cotton in words like these: 

Had we never loved so kindly; 
Had we never loved so blindly, 
Never met and never parted, 
I had ne'er been broken hearted ! 6 

Julia, it seems, had lately gone off up the river on a visit to 
some friends, and the self-same post to which the steamer was 

1 There are points of likeness between this description and the photograph found in 
Whitman's notebook; see Vol. II, facing p. 70. 
*Cf. "Comus", 11. 463-469. 

•Paraphrased from Portia's speech in "The Merchant of Venice," IV, 1. 
♦"Comus," 1. 753. 

6 The title of a popular song by J. Augustus Wade (1800-1875). 
6 See infra, p. 216, note. 


fastened when the fair Katydid stepped foot on board was like 
"storied urn and monumental bust," 1 to Sam. He couldn't 
have thought it possible that a big post should have gained so 
upon his affection, and as by moonlight he stood there leaning 
up against the aforesaid romantic piece of timber, and gazing 
out upon the mighty Mississippi, which was running at that 
time pretty full of drift wood, Sam did feel sad, sorrowful and 
sober-hearted enough. 

But why spin out a long story? for a long one could be told 
of the courtship of Sam and Katydid. Let it suffice to say, 
that through the benign influence of a very woman, a " change 
came over the spirit" of the young gentleman's dream, 2 and 
he who was once the prince of good fellows among a crowd of 
roysterers in an evening's carouse, and could laugh the loudest 
and longest, and emptiest, was made a different chap of as 
soon as 

His dream of life from morn till night, 

Was love — still love.s 

Why lengthen the recital? Katydid was not inexorable, 
neither had she a heart of adamant, harder than the nether mill- 
stone. She, being wooed, was in due course of things, won, 
and I can show the house where they live — that is, Sam and his 
wife, Katydid. He visits the Levee no more by moonlight, 
not he: he stays at home like a decent worthy citizen, as 
he is. He loves Katydid, and has reason to bless the hour 
when she smiled and winked, and half confessed that she loved 
him. The merchantable firm with whom Sam was brought 
up, opened wide their business arms, and took him in. Alto- 
gether, Sam is looking up in the world. Who will not say that 
it was not that same bright-eyed Katydid that made a man of 


At a very advanced age this very well known personage has 
at length left that earth on which he had such large possessions. 

*A misquotation of Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," 1. 41. 
*Cf. infra, p. 179, note. This quotation, it may be observed, is another, if a slight, evi- 
dence of the Whitman authorship of these sketches. 
3 Cf. Thomas Moore's "Love's Young Dream," stanza I. 
4 From the Daily Crescent, April 7, 1848. 
At the time of his death John Jacob Astor was the wealthiest man in the United States. 


"The rich man also died." It were a trite moral to draw — to go 
over the oft-said maxims about the vanity of wealth, and its 
inability to wrestle with death; and we forbear. Wealth is good 
enough; but unfortunately people don't one quarter of the time 
enjoy it, after it comes to them. 

For some years past Mr. Astor has been living in a two story 
brick house in Broadway, New York, opposite the old site of 
Niblo's Garden. The laconic door-plate, "Mr. Astor" informs 
persons of the name of the occupant. Somehow, this dwelling 
always had a cold, cheerless, naked, and uninviting appearance: 1 
there were no shutters to the prodigious windows, nor were 
pleasant faces ever seen at the panes — nor was the warm aspect 
of family comforts and endearments known there. Ugh! the 
house gave one something of a chill when passing it, even in 

We remember seeing Mr. A. two winters since, when going 
down Broadway by this house. 2 A couple of servants were 
assisting him across the pavement to a sleigh which was drawn 
up by the curb-stone. The old gentleman's head seemed com- 
pletely bent down with age and sickness; he was muffled in furs 
and entirely unable to help himself. The very groom, a hearty 
young Irishman, with perhaps not two dollars in his pocket, 
looked with pity upon the great millionaire! Certainly no man, 
of the crowds that hurried along that busy promenade, would 
have accepted the rich capitalist's wealth tied to the condition of 
being "in his shoes." 

Some curiosity has long been felt at the north, to know 
the disposition of Mr. A.'s immense wealth. It is rumored that 
a benevolent bequest has been made of several hundred thousand 
dollars; that literary institutions have been founded, and so on. 
We shall soon learn whether there is any truth in these stories. 
Fitz-Green Halleck, the poet, has for some years been the confi- 
dential clerk of Mr. Astor, and will doubtless receive a hand- 
some legacy. One of the sons of Mr. A. is a confirmed lunatic, 
and is taken care of in a house built expressly for him by his 
father, in New York. He has servants, medical attendance, 
etc. The domestic affairs of Mr. Astor were never happy, or, at 
least, have not been so for many years. 

For Whitman's attitude toward great riches, see also infra, pp. 37-29, Hi; post, I, pp. 
123-125, 245; II, pp. 63, 67. 

1 Cf. infra, p. 96. 

*Cf. "Complete Prose," p. 12. 



. . . Fertile as the age has been in plans for the im- 
provement of the individual and social life, in no department 
has the human intellect been more active than in devising sys- 
tems of education, fitted both for the Common School and the 
University. Yet, diverse as have been these schemes proposed 
for training the race for its duties and its pleasures, all have 
admitted the general principle that the object of education 
is rather that of developing, strengthening and directing the 
faculties with which nature has endowed us, than that of im- 
parting positive knowledge, filling the mind with a heap of dis- 
jointed facts, or making it a store-house for the reception of the 
exploded theories of past generations. To expand and purify 
the soul by the contemplation of virtue, to strengthen the mind 
for the search after truth, and fill it with the earnest determina- 
tion of resting satisfied with no other object of pursuit, should 
be the primary aim of all educational means. . . . 

. . . We may say then that the Common School is pe- 
culiarly connected with what are generally called the material 
interests of society. . . . The University, while it forgets 
not to inculcate on the scholar the necessity of attending to the 
material agencies by which we are surrounded, is also occupied 
with teaching him that there is something more than matter 
in the universe, and instructs him in the art of removing the 
integuments which cover the ideal, and hide from all but the 
eye-intellectual the beauties and truths of the immaterial world. 
But since the University is merely a continuation of the Com- 
mon School, both must be founded on a common principle; 
both aim, as we have said, at awakening and developing — 
neither at perfecting — the faculties of our nature. 

If we are right in saying that the object of University educa- 
tion is rather to inspire the student with an ardent desire to 
search after truth than to infuse into his mind correct opinions 
on all objects within the scope of University instruction — it will 
be immediately perceived that it is much more important for 
the professors and text-writers to be thoroughly imbued with 
the spirit of pure and elevated philosophy than for them to come 
to a certain standard of orthodoxy, erected by a certain sect in 
politics, religion or literature. It was said by Lessing, "It 

'From the Daily Crescent, April II, 1848. 
Cf. infra, pp. 144-146; />o.f/, II, pp. 13-15. 


God held in his right hand pure and absolute truth, and in his 
left only the desire to search after truth, I would tell him to keep 
pure truth for himself, as mortal eyes are too weak to look on it, 
and would ask him to give me only the desire to search after 
truth." 1 So should the youth speak to the professor, if the latter 
should presume to declare his opinions as the only possible truth, 
and denounce all others as absolutely and unqualifiedly false. 
Let the professor rather tell the opinions of others and their 
reasonings as well as his own; then say to his hearers, "I cannot 
decide for you, you must inquire and decide for yourselves." 
Such, we are told, is the course actually pursued by the Lecturer 
on Constitutional Law of the Louisiana University; and how 
much better it is than if he merely gave his own opinions, with 
the reasons which led him to form them, leaving the student 
under the impression that there was no other rational way of 
considering the subject. 

As with professors, so should it be with text-books. . . . 
Students, however, will never remain satisfied with a one- 
sided view of any subject; and having learned from their pro- 
fessors that independence of thought which is a cardinal virtue 
in the republic of letters, there is no danger of their receiving 
the words of any man as the words of a master. . . . 


This venerable building was, on Thursday last, resorted to 
by hundreds of those who wished to show their penitence and 
humility. The old monastic church stood, as it were, aloof 
from the wings on either side. The temples dedicated to the 
law — the higher Courts on the one side, and the Municipal 
Court on the other — have been renovated, and now look like 
modern structures by the side of some monument of old. The 
tall, gray Cathedral reared its ancient spire to Heaven; but 
the towers wherein [were] the bells that have tolled the death 
knell, and rung the merry marriage music of thousands, were 
silent. It was a day dedicated to the "King of Kings" — it 
was the Holy Thursday of Passion week. It commemorated 
the occasion of the "Last Supper" of our Saviour, who, when 
surrounded by his disciples, gave them his last earthly bless- 
ing. There were over two thousand communicants kneeling 

»In his Eine Duplik (1778). Being ignorant of German, Whitman probably got 
this quotation at second hand. 
2 From the Daily Crescent, April 22, 1848. 


at the altars, at various periods of the day, and all seemed fully- 
sensible of the solemnity of the occasion. Grand Mass was cele- 
brated — after which, many persons came in to adore or com- 
municate in spirit with the "Son of Man." In the niche upon 
the right-hand side, stood a basse relievo of the Virgin and her 
Child. Upon a table near by, was a bronze figure of the Cru- 
cifixion, and underneath a higher portion of the altar, a cross, 
covered with purple silk — the color emblematical of the blood 
that gushed from the wound inflicted by the spearman, upon 
the person of the Divine Nazarene. On the other side was a 
niche dedicated to St. Francis; this was half covered with a parti- 
colored drapery, which entirely concealed the face of the Saint, 
but underneath, there was an altar composed of the most gor- 
geous flowers — whose radiant beauties were lighted up by in- 
numerable candles in silver candlesticks. The church was 
crowded by those devoted to the Catholic religion, and pre- 
sented a scene that was solemn and interesting in the highest 
degree. Our dark-eyed Creole beauties, 1 with their gilt-edged 
prayer-books in their hands, would walk in with an air that 
seemed to say that beauty was a part of religion. Dipping their 
taper fingers into the holy water and crossing their foreheads, 
they would then walk up the aisle and kneel down to prayer. 
We saw many women there whose garments betokened that 
some dear friend had not long been laid in the grave. They 
knelt before the picture of Christ carrying his cross, and prayed, 
no doubt, that they might have strength to carry theirs. Per- 
sons of all classes went down before the shrine of Religion. 
There was the broken-hearted man of the world — the gray- 
haired man, whose feet were on the brink of the grave — the 
blooming girl whose charms were budding into womanhood — 
and the wrinkled, care-worn widow, to whom love was but a 
memory. Then again, were the old servants of ancient families; 
and then ragged, pale-faced creatures, who looked as though 
they did not dare to approach too near the altar. The whole 
scene was beautiful and solemn, and calculated to impress the 
heart with the purity of virtue, and endow the soul with full re- 
liance in the power of Him who rules above. Yesterday was 
Good-Friday — the anniversary of the Crucifixion. The cere- 
monies on this occasion were of the most imposing nature, and 
showed reverence and respect for the tortures endured by the 
God-like Hero of Calvary, for the benefit of a sinful world. 
1 Cf. post, II, pp. 185 ff. 


By a Pedestrian 

Got up early from my bed in my little room near Lafayette. 
The sun had scarcely risen, and every object seemed lazy and 
idle. On some German ship moored at the levee I saw about a 
dozen stalwart sailors with bare legs, scouring the decks. 
They seemed to be as happy as lords, although their wages 
are sometimes not more than six dollars a month. . . . Saw 
a negro throw a large stone at the head of his mule, because it 
would not pull an empty dray — wished I owned the negro — 
wouldn't treat him as he treated the mule, but make him a 
present of a cow-skin, and make him whip himself. . . . 
Saw a poor long-shoreman lying down on a bench; had on a real 
[red?] shirt and blue cottonade pantaloons; coarse brogans, but 
no stockings. He had spent all his money in a. tippler's shop 
the night previous for grog, and when his last picayune was dis- 
covered to be gone, he was kicked out of the house. Thought 
that there were some landlords who deserved to be bastinadoed. 
. . . Saw a shipping master riding at full speed upon a small 
pony. He would have been willing to have freighted every 
ship in port, if he could have been "elected." Saw him go on 
board a vessel, and come off again, with, in all probability, 
a flea in his ear. He kicked the pony in his sides, and after 
dismounting went into the nearest grog-shop. How he kept 
"his spirits up by pouring spirits down' 1 He didn't get the 
freight of that ship. . . . The sun had just showed his 
golden face above the gray clouds of the horizon, and bathes 
with lustre the distant scenery. Now come the bustle and 
business of the day. Shop-keepers are opening their stores; 
stevedores are hurrying aboard their respective ships. Those 
stevedores ! they are for the most part honest men, and, physi- 
cally speaking, work much harder than any other class of 
the community. Many of them have little tin kettles on their 
arms which contain their simple dinner repast. When their 
work is over they get their "bones," and then separate for their 
different homes to woo "tired nature's sweet restorer" 2 — sleep; 
or mayhap to spend their day's earnings in a grog-shop. . . . 
There's a big, red faced man walking hastily up the levee. 

2 From the Daily Crescent, April 26, 1 848. 
i Cf.jnfra i p. 207. 


He's a Customhouse officer, and is hurrying on board his vessel 
for fear that if not there by sunrise, the Captain may report 
him to the Collector. . . . Went into St. Mary's Market, 
saw a man, a good old man in a bluejacket and cottonade panta- 
loons, with a long stick of sugar cane in his hand. Wondered 
who he was, and much surprised to find out that he was a law- 
yer of some repute. At the lower end of the market there was a 
woman with a basket of live crabs at her feet. Although she 
loved money, she had no particular affection for a press from 
the claws of the ungainly creatures that she handled with a pair 
of iron tongs. Saw the "cat fish" man, who declared that his 
fish were just caught, and were as tender as a piece of lamb. 
Went up the Market and saw rounds of beef, haunches of veni- 
son and legs of mutton, that would have made a disciple of 
Graham forswear his hermit-like appetite. 1 . . . Came 
down town — shops all open — and heard the news boys calling 
out the names of the different papers that they had for sale. 
These boys are "cute" as foxes and as industrious as ants. 

Some of them who now cry out "ere's yer , here's the , 

here's the ," may in time be sent to Congress. . . . 

Went down town further — all was business and activity — the 
clerks placing boxes upon the pavements — the persons employed 
in fancy stores were bedecking their windows with their gaudiest 
goods, and the savory smell of fried ham, broiled beef-steaks, 
with onions, etc., stole forth from the half unshut doors of every 
restaurant. . . . Passed down Conti street and looked at 
the steamboat wharf. It was almost lined with steamboats; 
some were puffing off steam and throwing up to the sky huge 
columns of blackened smoke — some were lying idle, and others 
discharging sugar, molasses, cotton, and everything else that is 
produced in the great Valley of the Mississippi. Came to 
the conclusion that New Orleans was a great place and no mis- 
take. . . . Went still further down — visited the Markets 
and saw that every luxury given to sinful man by sea and land, 
from a shrimp to a small potato, were there to be purchased. 
Came home again and took breakfast — tea, a radish, piece of 
dry toast, and an egg — read one of the morning papers, and 
then went about my business. 

1 Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an American Presbyterian clergyman, vegetarian, and 
inventor of Graham bread. 



Quite a sensation was created in the St. Charles Theatre, 
last night, by the appearance of Maj. Gens. Taylor and Pillow, 
with some other officers of note, in the dress circle. It was just 
as the model artists, 2 on the stage, were in the midst of their 
tableaux of the "Circassian Slaves," that the hero of Buena 
Vista, and his companions, entered the house. In the dim 
light, the gas being turned off to give effect to the perform- 
ances, the General's entrance was not noticed by the audience. 
When the lights shone out again, however, the most vociferous 
cheering announced that the people recognized him. The 
orchestra played "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Hail 
Columbia" — and the next tableau was one purposely compli- 
mentary to General Taylor. It was received with loud cheer- 
ing and plaudits. 

By "You Know Who" 

A strict adherence to the truth compells me to acknowledge 
that I am a bachelor, whether young or old, handsome or ugly, 
rich or poor, I will leave your readers to guess. I am, however, 
like all bachelors, one from inclination, not necessity. As all 
philosophers have acknowledged that every one can be suited 
to their minds as regards the selection of a wife, why I should be 
an exception to the general rule arises no doubt from the fact of 
my being a resident of this city of epidemics, and she somewhere 
else, with no likelihood of her ever getting here, so I have settled 
down [to be] as comfortable as circumstances will admit, joined 
the "Old Bachelor Society," intending to prove my constancy 
toward her by marrying nobody. If this ain't satisfactory and 
self-sacrificing on my part, and sufficient to immortalize me, I 
will keel over and expire. 

Japhet in search of his father never had more difficulties 

iFrom the Daily Crescent, May 9, 1848. 
Cf. " Complete Prose," p. 440 

*Cf. infra, p. 191. 

3 From the Daily Crescent, May 18, 1848. 


to surmount, obstacles to contend against, and incidents to be- 
fall him, than I have had in my efforts to find her. I did not 
cease my labors night nor day, as my portfolio will prove, but 
all in vain; my supplications were useless, my efforts fruitless, 
my dreams and fancies of no avail. The following incident 
befel me in one of my exploring expeditions after her. 

'Twas Saturday evening, cool and pleasant, just the kind of 
night for a dance, as I found myself with a few friends, com- 
fortably seated in the Lafayette car. "Who knows," so ran 
my mind, "but what I may see her this evening? Nature may 
repay all my labors by showing me the one she intends to share 
my lot." And a thousand other fanciful thoughts flitted through 
my mind, when "Gentlemen will please make room for ladies" 
assailed my ears from two or three stentorian voices. My 
gallantry would not allow me to remain one second after this 
appeal; so I got up on deck 1 as best I could, amidst the yelling 
of a crowd of b'hoys trying to sing "Old Dan Tucker." I was 
about taking a seat, but finding some three inches of the thickest 
kind of dew on the bench, I stood it the balance of the dis- 

At length we arrived at the end of our journey. The Trojan 
horse could scarcely contain more persons than that car; they 
were pouring out from all sides and in every direction. I 
followed the crowd. Arriving at the ball-room I imagined all 
trouble and inconvenience ceased, for that night. Poor deluded 
being! I forgot I had a hat, and that I should provide a place 
for it. I did so, but suffered some. The post-office on adver- 
tizing days 2 was nothing to it. When I was clear of the crowd, 
I requested one of my friends to squeeze me into shape again; 
I felt as flat as a pancake. Did you ever put on white kid 
gloves 3 — the delicate little creatures — without wishing they 
were never known? If you did not, I did, that night. In the 
hurry of the moment I bought sevens instead of nines. I 
pulled; I pressed and pulled again. No go. I was determined 
to have them on or burst. After a while I did both. Although 
my hands looked like cracked dumplings , I didn't care; so I put 

1 The street railway cars of the New Orleans of that day were curious double-decked 
affairs. The car itself was divided into four compartments — one for white women, one 
for white men and women, one for those who wished to smoke, and one for negroes. A 
pyramidal stairway on the outside of the car led from the first three of these compart- 
ments to the upper deck, on which there was a long double seat and the driver's box. 

* Days on which uncalled-for letters were advertized in the newspapers. 

8 It would appear that for once Whitman was in conventional evening clothes. 


my hands behind my back and made my first debut amidst the 
chivalry, beauty, loveliness, and exquisite grace congregated 
in that social hall. 

The room was overflowing with the beauty of Lafayette, 1 
with a sprinkling from New Orleans and Carrolton. A prome- 
nade was in order when I entered and I watched each graceful 
form and lovely face; as they approached like sylphs of some 
fairy tale, in plain, fancy and mask dresses. Each one, me- 
thought, was more lovely than the other; but no, the object of 
my heart, — she who has caused me so many sleepless nights and 
restless days, — she whom I have seen so often in my dreams and 
imaginings, was not among the unmasked. I rose from my seat 

with a heavy heart, walked into the and took a drink of 

lemonade without any brandy in it. On my return, a cotillion 
was in motion. I looked upon it with stoic indifference — she 
was not there, and not being there, the place or persons had no 
charms for me. 

While musing to myself that I would emigrate to Europe 
or China — get wrecked, perhaps — find her on some barren isle, 
etc. — I caught a glimpse of what I considered the very pink of 
perfection, in form, grace and movement, in fancy dress. 
Doctor Collyer 2 would give the world for such a figure. My 
eyes were riveted on the spot. My head began to swim. I 
saw none but her. A mist surrounded all the others, while she 
moved about in bold relief. She turned. I saw her face, 
radiant with smiles, ecstasy, delight. "'Tis she!" I ejaculated, 
as if tossed by a pitchfork, and caught the arm of a manager, 
to introduce me. He didn't know her. It was her first ap- 
pearance in the ball-room. I imagined it was an auspicious 
coincidence. It was also my first appearance. Seeing a gentle- 
man conversing with her, I watched my opportunity, and seeing 
him alone, I requested him to introduce me. Never saw him 
before in my life; but what cared I — my case was getting des- 
perate. He willingly consented; and off we started toward her. 
To describe my feelings while approaching her, is impossible. I 
was blind to all but her. 

The agony was over; she spoke; and the deed was done. I 
found that she was everything that I imagined — accomplished, 

1 Lafayette was then a sort of suburb, but it has long since become an integral part of 
New Orleans. It appears that Whitman had a room in Lafayette for a time. (See in- 
fra, p. 223.) 

2 Of Doctor Collyer 's Model Artists; cf. injra^ p. 191. 


pleasing in her manners, agreeable in her conversation, well 
versed in the authors, from Dryden down to James 1 — including 
all the intermediate landings — passionately fond of music, she 
said; and by her musical voice I knew she could sing. I was 
happy in every sense of the word — delighted beyond measure. 
She kindly consented to promenade — would carry me through a 
cotillion if I'd go — but, knowing nothing about the poetry 
of motion, I had to decline; and she, — noble, generous creature as 
she was! — preferred rather to talk and walk than dance. I 
admired her, nay, I will confess, for the first time in my life, 
I felt the " tender passion" creeping all over me. / was in love! 
I could not restrain myself. Candor compelled me to speak 
openly — I told her I had been looking for her since I was 18 
years of age. "Looking for me!" she exclaimed with astonish- 
ment. "If not you," I answered, "some one very much like 
you." She guessed my object, saw and understood all, and 
invited me to call and see her. 

I was, in my own opinion, as good as a married man — at 
length my toils and troubles were to cease — I was about to be 
repaid for my constancy, by having the one for my wife that 
nature intended. Just at this moment where, in any other 
place I would have been on my knees, the gentleman who [had] 
introduced me, came up to us and said — "Wife, ain't it time to 
go home?" "Yes, my dear" she responded. So taking his 
arm, casting a peculiar kind of look at me, and bidding me good 
night, they left me like a motionless statue on the floor. The 
perspiration flowed down my cheeks, like rain drops — the blood 
rushed to my head — my face was as red as a turkey rooster s — 
I was insensible. Some of my friends, seeing my situation, car- 
ried me into the , and administered another lemonade with 

a little brandy in it, which revived me very shortly. I jumped 
into a cab — in one hour afterwards I was in the arms of Mor- 

It is very evident that she was the one; and yet it astonishes 
me how she could take her present husband for me. There is no 
similarity between us. She was still young, and no chance of 
being an old maid; while he appeared as careless of his wife's 
charms as I did of his existence. 

I wish them both much happiness, altho' I am the sufferer by 
it. 2 

» George Payne Rainesford James (i 801-1860), a prolific English novelist and historian. 
*Cf. infra, p. 216, note. 



We don't know much about Fourierism — that we confess; 
but to us it seems a great objection that nobody, as far as we 
learn from the system, is to do anything but be happy. Now 
who would peel potatoes and scrub the floors? The N. Y. 
Sunday Dispatch advocates Fourierism, because, under it, the 
Dispatch says, "Music, vocal and instrumental, would be every- 
where cultivated, and each association would have its band, 
and its choir, to furnish music on all occasions. Music at sun- 
rise would waken all from sleep. Soft music at twilight, and 
dancing on the green-sward in summer, or in the great saloon 
in winter, would be the evening recreation, and the serenade 
at night would make a thousand happy sleepers dream of 
heaven, while the solemn chorus of a thousand voices would 
swell the song of praise and thanksgiving for a state of happiness 
worthy to be called the kingdom of God on earth — for which, 
we pray as often as we say, ' Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done 
on earth as it is in heaven.* " 



When young Archibald Dean went from the city — (living 
out of which he had so often said was no living at all) — went 
down into the country to take charge of a little district school, 
he felt as though the last float-plank which buoyed him up on 
hope and happiness, was sinking, and he with it. But poverty 
is as stern, if not as sure, as death and taxes, which Franklin 
called the surest things of the modern age. And poverty com- 
pelled Archie Dean; for when the destructive New- York fire 
of '3$ happened, ruining so many property owners and erewhile 

1 From the New Orleans Daily Crescent, May 20, 1848. 

This brief notice deals with Fourierism in its economic aspects; for Whitman's views 
of another Fourierist idea, that of free-love, see post, II, p. 7, note. 

8 From the Union Magazine of Literature and Art, Vol. II, pp. 280-281, June, 1848. 

Whitman did not return to Brooklyn from New Orleans until June 15. This sketch 
may have been submitted to Mrs. Kirkland's magazine before he went south or may 
have been submitted from among earlier manuscripts. At any rate, I find in it no 
reflection of the southern sojourn, though its date and theme would at first glance lead 
the reader to expect some indication of it. 


rich merchants, it ruined the insurance offices, which of course 
ruined those whose little wealth had been invested in their stock. 
Among hundreds and thousands of other hapless people, the 
aged, the husbandless, the orphan, and the invalid, the widow 
Dean lost every dollar on which she depended for subsistence 
in her waning life. It was not a very great deal; still it had 
yielded, and was supposed likely to yield, an income large enough 
for her support, and the bringing up of her two boys. But, 
when the first shock passed over, the cheerful-souled woman 
dashed aside, as much as she could, all gloomy thoughts, and 
determined to stem the waters of roaring fortune yet. What 
troubled her much, perhaps most, was the way of her son Archi- 
bald. "Unstable as water," even in his youth, was not a suf- 
ficient excuse for his want of energy and resolution; 1 and she 
experienced many sad moments, in her maternal reflections, 
ending with the fear that he would "not excell. ,, The young 
man had too much of that inferior sort of pride which fears to 
go forth in public with anything short of fashionable garments, 
and hat and boots fit for fashionable criticism. His cheeks 
would tingle with shame at being seen in any working capacity; 
his heart sunk within him if his young friends met him when he 
showed signs of the necessity of labor, or of the absence of 
funds. Moreover, Archie looked on the dark side of his life 
entirely too often; he pined over his deficiencies, as he called 
them, by which he meant mental as well as pecuniary wants. 
. . . But to do the youth justice, his good qualities must be 
told, too. He was unflinchingly honest; he would have laid out 
a fortune, had he possessed one, for his mother's comfort; he 
was not indisposed to work, and work faithfully, could he do so 
in a sphere equal to his ambition; 2 he had a benevolent, candid 
soul, and none of the darker vices which are so common among 
the young fellows of our great cities. 3 

A good friend, in whose house she could be useful, furnished 
the widow with a gladly accepted shelter; and thither she 
also took her younger boy, the sickly pale child, the light-haired 
little David, who looked thin enough to be blown all away by 
a good breeze. And happening accidentally to hear of a coun- 
try district where, for poor pay and coarse fare, a school teacher 
was required, and finding on inquiry that Archie, who, though 

iCf.posty II, pp. 193-194. 

*Cf. infra, pp. 4-5, 19-20; post, II, pp. 125, 152. 
* y II, pp. 5-8,30. 


little more than a boy himself, had a fine education, would fill 
the needs of the office, thither the young man was fain to betake 
himself, sick at soul, and hardly restraining unmanly tears as 
his mother kissed his cheek, while he hugged his brother tightly, 
the next hour being to find him some miles on his journey. 
But it must be. Had he not ransacked eVery part of the city for 
employment as a clerk? And was he not quite ashamed to be 
any longer a burthen on other people for his support? 

Toward the close of the first week of his employment, the 
entering upon which, with the feelings and circumstances of 
the beginning, it is not worth while to narrate, Archie wrote a 
long letter to his mother, (strange as it may seem to most men, 
she was also his confidential friend,) of which the following is 

" You may be tired of such outpourings of spleen, but 

my experience tells me that I shall feel better after writing them; 
and I am in that mood when sweet music would confer on 
me no pleasure. Pent up and cribbed here among a set of beings 
tc whom grace and refinement are unknown, with no sunshine 
ahead, have I not reason to feel the gloom over me? Oh, pov- 
erty, what a devil thou art! How many high desires, how 
many aspirations after goodness and truth thou hast crushed 
under thy iron heel ! What swelling hearts thou hast sent down 
to the silent house after a long season of strife and bitterness! 
What talent, noble as that of great poets and philosophers, 
thou dost doom to pine in obscurity, or die in despair! 1 . . . 
Mother, my throat chokes, and my blood almost stops, when I 
see around me so many people who appear to be born into the 
world merely to eat and sleep, and run the same dull monotonous 
round — and think that I too must fall in this current, and live 
and die in vain ! " 

Poor youth, how many, like you, have looked on man and life 
in the same ungracious light! Has God's all-wise providence 
ordered things wrongly, then? Is there discord in the machin- 
ery which moves systems of worlds, and keeps them in their 
harmonious orbits? O, no: there is discord in your own heart; 
in that lies the darkness and the tangle. 2 To the young man, 
with health and a vigilant spirit, there is shame in despondency. 
Here we have a world, a thousand avenues to usefulness and to 
profit stretching in far distances around us. Is this the place for 

1 C/. infra, p. 19. 
*Cf. infra, p. no. 


a failing soul? Is youth the time to yield, when the race is just 

But a changed spirit, the happy result of one particular 
incident, and of several trains of clearer thought, began to sway 
the soul of Archie Dean in the course of the summer: for it was at 
the beginning of spring that he commenced his labors and felt 
his severest deprivations. There is surely, too, a refreshing 
influence in open-air nature, and in natural scenery, with occa- 
sional leisure to enjoy it, which begets in a man's mind truer 
and heartier reflections, analyzes and balances his decisions, and 
clarifies them if they are wrong, so that he sees his mistakes — 
an influence that takes the edge off many a vapory pang, and 
neutralizes many a loss, which is most a loss in imagination. 
Whether this suggestion be warranted or not, there was no doubt 
that the discontented young teacher's spirits were eventually 
raised and sweetened by his country life, by his long walks over 
the hills, by his rides on horseback every Saturday, 1 his morning 
rambles and his evening saunters; by his coarse living, even, and 
the untainted air and water, which seemed to make better 
blood in his veins. Gradually, too, he found something to ad- 
mire in the character and customs of the unpolished countryfolk; 
their sterling sense on most practical subjects, their hospitality, 
and their industry. 

One day Archie happened to be made acquainted with the 
history of one of the peculiar characters of the neighborhood — 
an ancient, bony, yellow-faced maiden, whom he had frequently 
met, and who seemed to be on good terms with everybody; 
her form and face receiving a welcome, with all their contiguity 
[exiguity?] and fadedness, wherever and whenever they appeared. 
In the girlhood of this long-born spinster, her father's large farm 
had been entirely lost and sold from him, to pay the debts in- 
curred by his extravagance and dissipation. The consequent 
ruin to the family peace which followed, made a singularly deep 
impression on the girl's mind, and she resolved to get the whole 

1 A number of details in this sketch seem to prove it to be more autobiographical than 
most of the others. A school-teacher might have occasion to ride horseback every Sat- 
urday, but Whitman, as a country editor, did deliver his weekly papers in this manner, 
and more than once he has ascribed to himself Archie Dean's experience in learning to 
admire the common sense of the country folk. (Cf. " Complete Prose," p. 10; infra, pp. 
120-121; post, II, p. 14, etc.) The date of Archie's being forced to leave the city for 
distasteful school teaching is placed in 1835; Whitman's began in 1836. Archie's 
unusually confiding attitude toward his mother parallels Whitman's affection for his 
"perfect mother." And Archie's moody pride and frustrated ambition suggest the 
self-revelations of Whitman's own early verse. 


farm back again. This determination came to form her life — 
the greater part of it — as much as her bodily limbs and veins. 
She was a shrewd creature; she worked hard; she received the 
small payment which is given to female labor; 1 she persisted; 
night and day found her still at her tasks, which were of every 
imaginable description; long — long — long years passed; youth 
fled, (and it was said she had been quite handsome); many 
changes of ownership occurred in the farm itself; she confided 
her resolve all that time to no human being; she hoarded her 
gains; all other passions — love even, gave way to her one great 
resolve; she watched her opportunity, and eventually con- 
quered her object! She not only cleared the farm, but was 
happy in furnishing her old father with a home there for years 
before his death. And when one comes to reflect on the disad- 
vantages under which a woman labors, in the strife for gain, 
this will appear a remarkable, almost an incredible case. And 
then, again, when one thinks how surely, though ever so slowly 
and step by step, perseverance has overcome apparently in- 
superable difficulties, the fact— for the foregoing incident is a fact 
— may appear so strange. 

Archie felt the narrative of this old maid's doings as a rebuke 
— a sharp-pointed moral to himself and his infirmity of purpose. 
Moreover, the custom of his then way of life forced him into 
habits of more thorough activity; he had to help himself or go 
unhelped; he found a novel satisfaction in that highest kind of 
independence which consists in being able to do the offices of 
one's own comfort, and achieve resources and capacities "at 
home," whereof to place happiness beyond the reach of variable 
circumstances, or of the services of the hireling, or even of the 
uses of fortune. The change was not a sudden one; few great 
changes are. But his heart was awakened to his weakness; 
the seed was sown; Archie Dean felt that he could expand his 
nature by means of that very nature itself. Many times he 
flagged; but at each fretful falling back, he thought of the 
yellow-faced dame, and roused himself again. . . . Mean- 
time changes occurred in the mother's condition. Archie was 
called home to weep at the death-bed of little David. Even 
that helped work out the revolution in his whole make; he felt 
that on him rested the responsibility of making the widow's last 
years comfortable. "I shall give up my teacher's place," 
said he to his mother, "and come to live with you; we will have 

iCf. infr*, p. 137. 


the same home, for it is best so." And so he did. And the 
weakness of the good youth's heart never got entirely the 
better of him afterward, but in the course of a season was put to 
flight utterly. This second time he made employment. With 
an iron will he substituted action and cheerfulness for despond- 
ency and a fretful tongue. He met his fortunes as they came, 
face to face, and shirked no conflict. Indeed, he felt it glorious 
to vanquish obstacles. For his mother he furnished a peaceful, 
plentiful home; and from the hour of David's death, never did 
his tongue utter words other than kindness, or his lips, whatever 
annoyances or disappointments came, cease to offer their cheer- 
fullest smile in her presence. 

Ah, for how many the morose habit which Archie rooted out 
from his nature, becomes by long usage and indulgence rooted 
in, and spreads its bitterness over their existence, and darkens 
the peace of their families, and carries them through the spring 
and early summer of life with no inhalement of sweets, and no 
plucking of flowers! 


Rev. Henry Ward Beecher 

We last heard Mr. Beecher at the Anti-Slavery meeting in 
the Tabernacle, where the Rynders' boys made themselves so 

i Sixteen of these brief articles were contributed by Whitman to the Brooklyn Daily 
Advertizer, a Whig paper, between May 18 and June 6, 1850. From one to four citizens 
were "noticed" in each article. Whitman's name is not given, but much of this ma- 
terial was worked over in the "Brooklyniana" and a little of it in the Times article on 
"Reminiscences of Brooklyn" (post, II, pp. 1-5). It is probable that Whitman also 
wrote the "Church Sketches" which appeared in the Advertizer about the same time at 
the rate of one a week, and which were published in the form of an illustrated booklet, 
"The City of Churches Illustrated," by the Advertizer press, in 1 850. These new features 
of the paper were introduced shortly after the size of the sheet and its general make-up 
had been greatly improved. They had much to do with the sudden increase of the 
circulation of the paper at the time. It is also probable that certain other articles in 
it are from Whitman's pen, but they do not differ materially, in style or content, from 
those of the Eagle period. 

The paragraph sketch of Henry Ward Beecher is given as a type of them all, because 
it shows that Whitman knew and admired Beecher several years before the publication 
of the "Leaves" (Cf. "With Walt Whitman in Camden," II. p. 471,) and also that he was 
attending not merely Free-soil but Abolition meetings. The other local personages 
mentioned, in paragraphs of varying lengths, are: Gen. Jeremiah Johnson, Col. 
Alden Spooner, Thomas Kirk, Jacob Patchen, Andre Parmentier, Samuel Willoughby, 
H. P. Waring, NorrisL. Martin, Losee Van Nostrand, Elijah Lewis, Samuel Smith, Dr. 
Samuel Cox, the Rev. T. B. Thayer, the Rev. Mr. Spear, the Rev. Evan M. Johnson, 
Nathan B. Morse, Seymour L. Husted, Elias Pelletreau, Mr. Hartshorne, Samuel E. 
Clements, H. B. Pierrepont, George Hall, Judge Greenwood, Wm. M. Harris, Adrian 


useful in standing up for the credit of themselves, and the city 
at large. 1 

Refinement and artistical beauty of style, Mr. Beecher has 
not. We somewhat wonder at this, for his written compositions 
are models of nervous beauty and classical proportion — being 
equal to many of the standard English authors* But refine- 
ment or not, you soon feel that a strong man is exercising his 
powers before you. Indeed, it has sometimes been to us, per- 
haps, a little more refreshing that his bold masculine discourses 
were without that prettiness and correctness of style that, say 
what we will, is very often accompanied by emptiness and some- 
thing very akin to effeminacy. 

On the occasion alluded to, Mr. Beecher, soon after the 
commencement of his remarks, was furiously responded to, 
after making a statement, by "That's a lie!" from one of the 
rowdies in the gallery. For a moment he turned pale — and, 
we have no doubt, felt the insult keenly. But abuse and prose- 
cution [persecution?] are the spears that prick such men as 
Beecher on. He proceeded with his remarks, and made a very 
vigorous speech. 2 

Carried away by his ardor and depth of conviction, on such 
occasions, and repelling with the fire of an unjustly accused 
spirit, the taunts of those who assault him, Mr. Beecher is no 
doubt apt to show too palpably how the wounds smart. In one 
sense we honor him for it. But still we would, if we might take 
such a liberty, advise more coolness, even contempt or indiffer- 
ence, towards those who violently assault him. 

The Plymouth Church, the new place of worship where Mr. 
B. officiates, is one of the amplest in the United States, and is 
always filled with a congregation when the pastor preaches. 
It occupies the site of the oldest Presbyterian Church of the city 
which, some time since, having been slightly injured by fire, was 
torn down to make room for the present one. 

Hegeman, Cyrus P. Smith, George W. Stilwell, Rodney S. Church, the Hon. Edward 
Copeland, Tunis G. Bergen, John G. Cammeyer, Hiram Barney, E. J. Bartow, 
Jonathan Trotter, Augustus and John B. Graham, Samuel Fleet, Joseph Moser, Alfred 
G. Stevens, B. W. Davis, Thomas G. Gerald, John Dikeman, Joseph W. Harper, and B. 
W. Delamater. 
The sketch of Beecher appeared in the Advcrtizer of May 25. 

» At the annual meeting of American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, on May 9, 

2 A somewhat fuller account of this incident is to be found in Beecher and Scoville's 
"A Biography of Henry Ward Beecher," New York, 1888, pp. 252-253. 



Though the collection of paintings of the Brooklyn Art Union 
now open, includes none approaching to the highest order of 
merit, it is nevertheless a very agreeable collection, and con- 
tains some works of taste and talent. The association is com- 
posed mostly of young artists, who have the matter in their 
own hands, and, by means of judges, committees, and so forth, 
decide upon the pictures to be purchased, the prices to be paid, 
and the different other means of encouraging the painters, as 
well as advancing the prosperity of the "establishment." This 
thing of encouragement, 'specially of encouragement to the 
younger race of artists, commends the Brooklyn Art Union to 
the good will and patronage of the public. A great reason why 
the very large majority of our painters are distressingly feeble, 
is, the absence of enough of such encouragement. How would 
the cause of education stand now, were it not for the powerful 
favor which is extended to it from so many quarters, apart 
from those who are directly interested? 

Nor is it too much to say, that nearly the same reasons which 
exist to compel this favor and sustenance in behalf of public edu- 
cation, will, if carried out, give some portion of the like waft- 
ing influences, to refined art. If we are bound, as we are 
by general acknowledgement, to furnish a fair education to all 
the children of the people, why not go a step further, and do 
something to add grace to that education — a polish to the raw 
jaggedness of the common school routine ? Nearly all intelligent 
boys and girls have much of the artist in them, and it were beau- 
tiful to give them an opportunity of developing it in one of the 
fine arts. 

At any rate, it seems to me that some organization of power 
to speak with decision, and to bring light out of the present 
darkness, is very much needed. For there are at the present mo- 
ment ten thousand so-called artists, young and old, in this 
country, many of whom are working in the dark, as it were, and 
without aim. They want a strong hand over them. Here is a 
case for the imperial scepter, even in America. It is only a 

iFrom the New York Evening Post, February I, 1851. This is introduced with 
the words, "A correspondent furnishes us with the following," and appears on the edi- 
torial page. It is signed "W. W." 

This criticism was reprinted, in part, in my article "Walt Whitman at Thirty-One/' 
in the New York Evening Post Book Review, Saturday, June 26, 1920. 


lucky few who can go abroad. From that few are probably 
left out the very ones who ought to go; and it is sometimes ques- 
tioned whether those who go, are afterward any the better. 

What a glorious result it would give, to form of these thou- 
sands a close phalanx, ardent, radical and progressive. Now 
they are like the bundle of sticks in the fable, and, as one by 
one, have no strength. Then, would not the advancing years 
foster the growth of a grand and true art here, fresh and youth- 
ful, worthy this republic, and this greatest of the ages? Would 
we not, at last, smile in return, at the pitying smile with which 
the old art of Europe has hitherto, and not unjustly, regarded 

These thousands of young men, idly as the business world 
too generally regards them — and despondingly as the severe 
taste is fain to turn oft times from their work — are in the main, 
composed of the nobler specimens of our race. With warm, 
impulsive souls, instinctively generous and genial, boon com- 
panions, wild and thoughtless often, but mean and sneaking 
never — such are these rapidly increasing ones. Unlike the 
orthodox sons and daughters of the world in many things, yet 
it is a picturesque unlikeness. For it need not argue an abso- 
lute miracle, if a man differ from the present dead uniformity of 
"society" in appearance and opinion, and still retain his grace 
and morals. A sunny blessing, then, say I, on the young 
artist race! for the thrift and shrewdness that make dollars, 
are not every thing that we should bow to, or yearn for, or put 
before our children as the be all and the end all of human am- 

But I commenced with little else than the intention of say- 
ing a few words about some of the younger painters, in Brook- 

One of the most promising of these is Walter Libbey; the 
reader may have noticed some of his pictures in the exhibitions 
of the Academy, or the New York Art Union. One, lately fin- 
ished, of a boy playing the flute, is a charming production, and 
would do credit to a master. I don't know where to look for a 
picture more naive, or with more spirit or grace. The young 
musician has stopped, by the way-side, and, putting down his 
basket, seats himself on a bank. He has a brown wool hat, or- 
namented with a feather; rolled-up shirt sleeves, a flowing 
red cravat on his neck, and a narrow leather belt buckled 
round his waist — a handsome, healthy country boy. The face, 


the position of the hands holding the flute, the expression of 
the features, are exquisitely fine. I have looked several long 
looks at this picture, at different times, and each one with added 
pleasure and admiration. The scene in the background, clear 
and sunny, is yet subdued as a subordinate part — a servant to 
the main purpose; and it is a beautiful scene, too. The basket, 
half of which you see, the light resting here and there on the 
wide withes; the folds of the trousers, and their shadowed 
creases made by the open legs; on all these, the work shows the 
true artist. There is richness of coloring, tamed to that hue 
of purplish gray, which we see in the summer in the open air. 
There is no hardness, and the eye is not pained by the sharpness 
of outline which mars many otherwise fine pictures. In the 
scene of the background, and in all the accessories, there is a 
delicious melting in, so to speak, of object with object; an effect 
that is frequent enough in nature, though painters seem to dis- 
dain following it, even where it is demanded. 

I returned, the other day, after looking at Mount's 1 las. 
work — I think his best — of a Long Island negro, the winner of a 
goose at a raffle; and though it certainly is a fine and spirited 
thing, if I were to choose between the two, the one to hang up in 
my room for my own gratification, I should take the boy with 
his flute. This, too, to my notion, has a character of Ameri- 
canism about it. Abroad, a similar subject would show the 
boy as handsome, perhaps, but he would be a young boor, and 
nothing more. The stamp of class is, in this way, upon all the 
fine scenes of the European painters, where the subjects are of a 
proper kind; while in this boy of Walter Libbey's, there is noth- 
ing to prevent his becoming a President, or even an editor of a 
leading newspaper. 

Mount's negro may be said to have a character of American- 
ism, too; but I must be pardoned for saying, that I never could, 
and never will, admire the exemplifying of our national attri- 
butes with Ethiopian minstrelsy, or Yankee Hill 2 characters 
upon the stage, as the best and highest we can do in that way. 

We have, in Brooklyn, some more young artists — with others, 
of more established fame — of whom I should like to offer a few 
words, at another time; for my talk has already been strung out 
beyond the proper limits. 

1 William Sidney Mount (1807-1868), a. genre painter; born at Setauket, L. I.; mem- 
ber of the National Academy. 

2 Cf. infra, p. 157, note 8. 



Brooklyn, March 21 st. 
To the Editors of the Evening Post: 

That part of our city called South Brooklyn, will soon present 
such a changed appearance, as to leave very few of the old land- 
marks, the hills, or natural broken places. Bergen Hill is al- 
ready nearly gone; large marble houses stand where it used to 
slope; while swarms of sappers and miners will soon leave no sign 
of the noble bluff that has hitherto jutted out as a northwestern 
point of the graceful little cove called Gowanus Bay. It is a 
sad thing to lose this beautiful bluff. They fill up the shores 
with it, preparatory to running out piers and wharves. 

In the neighborhood of the Atlantic Dock, an immense tract 
has been reclaimed from the water, by this filling-up process. 
Streets intersect it, and the prices of lots range from three hun- 
dred to fifteen hundred dollars. Hundreds of the lots are 
owned by the Atlantic Dock Company, who occasionally put up 
a batch of them at auction. 

Probably this will be (the parts immediately adjacent to 
the dock) quite a site for manufacturing places. It has a great 
many advantages that way, and there is already one large manu- 
factory there. The immense storehouses on the interior of the 
dock would have answered for Joseph to store the grain of 
Egypt, preparatory to the year of famine. 

All this part of Brooklyn will have, when settled, a look of 
newness and modern style. For every house will have been 
built within the last few years. The upper streets, in the neigh- 
borhood of Court Street, are quite of the plebeian order. Reser- 
vations are made, when the lots are sold, which cause all the 
houses to be of large and costly structure. Just north and east 
of Hamilton avenue, by the ferry, there are many very pleasant 
and genteel rows of houses. — Nearly all of the men who occupy 
them do business in New York. 

Hamilton ferry is rapidly becoming one of the great channels 
of travel; it grows even more rapidly than the South ferry did. 

!From the New York Evening Post, March 2X, 1851. 

This letter is signed "W.," and is clearly Whitman's, not only because it belongs to a 
period when he is known to have been writing for the Evening Post, but also because of the 
similarity between its style and content and the "Brooklyniana," to say nothing of the 
Eagle editorials. Moreover, it promises the letters from "Paumanok," easily identified 
as Whitman's. 


It is already a much more agreeable line to cross than the Main 
street or Hudson avenue ferry, and will doubtless be added 
to, as the neighborhood which gives it sustenance shall in- 

Hamilton avenue will eventually be the principal road to 
Greenwood Cemetery. It is somewhat remarkable that it has 
not become so already. It is direct, and much shorter than any 
other way. 

Over the Penny Bridge, and along a winding road which is 
nothing more than a wide dam, one reaches Third avenue, the 
principal thoroughfare of those diggins, and which generally 
goes by the name of Greenwood. It has lately been raised, 
graded, and handsomely paved, thus becoming one of the widest 
and finest of streets, stretching away off toward New Utrecht, 
along by the shore where the beautiful residences are. 

Greenwood Cemetery has lately established a new general en- 
trance, some half a mile beyond the former one, that being used 
merely for funerals. The old one is far the more grand and 
impressive. Indeed, it is doubtful whether there is a finer or 
more nobly picturesque scene, of its sort, any where to be found, 
than that old entrance to Greenwood. 

The Fifth avenue, a long and wide street, which was opened 
and put in barely travelling order a year or two since, yet re- 
mains unpaved and unregulated. This is a pity, for it is a high, 
fine street, and would make an agreeable part of a drive. 

The old brick house, with " 1-6-9-9" on ^ ts g a °le end, 1 stands 
upon Fifth avenue. This is a famous old house, and when 
I can get hold of the right sort of persons among the old Dutch- 
men, I intend to pump forth all that is attributed to, or con- 
nected with, that house, in the way of reminiscence, ghost- 
story, and such like. We have too few of those treasures, to let 
any of them slide away, when they can be arrested. 

A good deal of the local character of the South Ferry neigh- 
borhood, comes from its being the terminus of the Long Island 
Railroad. This unfortunate property will, one day, without 
doubt, become very valuable. As the land fills up — and it is 
filling up, all along the road, with numerous little villages and 
settlements — the cars will have more and steadier passengers. 
Certain serious financial troubles, under which the company 
has labored for some time past, have been settled much less 
injuriously to the concern than was feared, and the road is now 

1 Cf. post, p. II, 226. 


under fair auspices again. It is intended, the coming summer, 
to run two through trains between the extremities of the road, 

With this means of travel, running like a backbone through 
Long Island, and the numerous steamboat lines on the sound, 
who shall say that old Paumanok is not accessible? And let it 
be also said, by one who has learned the same from his own in- 
vestigations, that many summer travellers go farther and fare 
worse. The eastern parts of Long Island are rich mines for 
those who love original and peculiar character; as I purpose to 
show, in notes to the Evening Post, some time during the sum- 
mer. For thither I wend my way with the hot season, and like 
it far better than I could ever like Saratoga or Newport. 


Remarks of Walt Whitman, before the Brooklyn Art 
Union, on the Evening of March 31, 1851 

Among such a people as the Americans, viewing most things 
with an eye to pecuniary profit — more for acquiring than for 
enjoying or well developing what they acquire — ambitious of 
the physical rather than the intellectual; a race to whom matter 
of fact is everything, and the ideal nothing — a nation of whom 
the steam engine is no bad symbol — he does a good work who, 
pausing in the way, calls to the feverish crowd that in the life 
we live upon this beautiful earth, there may, after all, be some- 
thing vaster and better than dress and the table, and business 
and politics. 

There was an idle Persian hundreds of years ago who wrote 
poems; and he was accosted by one who believed more in 
thrift. — "Of what use are you?" inquired the supercilious son 
of traffic. The poet turning plucked a rose and said, "Of what 
use is this?" "To be beautiful, to perfume the air," answered 
the man of gains. "And I," responded the poet, "am of use 
to perceive its beauty and to smell its perfume." 

It is the glorious province of Art, and of all Artists worthy 
the name, to disentangle from whatever obstructs it, and 
nourish in the heart of man, the germ of the perception of the 
truly great, the beautiful and the simple. 

»From the Brooklyn Daily Jcloerdzer^ April 3, 1851. 


When God, according to the myth, finished Heaven and 
Earth — when the lustre of His effulgent light pierced the cold 
and terrible darkness that had for cycles of ages covered the 
face of the deep — when the waters gathered themselves to- 
gether into one place and made the sea — and the dry land ap- 
peared with its mountains and its infinite variety of valley, shore 
and plain — when in the sweetness of that primal time the un- 
speakable splendor of the sunrise first glowed on the bosom 
of the earth — when the stars hung at night afar off in this most 
excellent canopy, the air, pure, solemn, eternal — when the 
waters and the earth obeyed the command to bring forth abund- 
antly, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fishes of 
the sea — and when, at last, the superb perfection, Man, ap- 
peared, epitome of all the rest, fashioned after the Father and 
Creator of all — then God looked forth and saw everything that 
he had made, and pronounced it good. Good because ever re- 
productive of its first beauty, finish and freshness. For just 
as the Lord left it remains yet the beauty of His work. It is 
now spring. Already the sun has warmed the blood of this 
old yet ever youthful earth and the early trees are budding and 
the early flowers beginning to bloom : 

There is not lost, one of Earth's charms 
Upon her bosom yet 
After the flight of untold centuries, 
The freshness of her far beginning lies 
And still shall lie. 1 

With this freshness — with this that the Lord called good — 
the Artist has to do. — And it is a beautiful truth that all men 
contain something of the artist in them. And perhaps it 
is sometimes the case that the greatest artists live and die, 
the world and themselves alike ignorant what they possess. 
Who would not mourn that an ample palace of surpassingly 
graceful architecture, filled with luxuries and gorgeously em- 
bellished with fair pictures and sculpture, should stand cold and 
still and vacant, and never be known and enjoyed by its owner? 

»A reprint of this speech in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (July 14, 1900) failed to preserve 
as verse this quotation from Bryant's " Forest Hymn. " The error was not corrected in 
Professor Perry's "Walt Whitman," he having access only to the Eagle reprint. But 
the correct version is interesting in that it shows how, by a slight alteration in the ar- 
rangement of the lines of Bryant, Whitman managed to secure an effect not unlike that 
of the new verse on which he was then working. It will be remembered that Whitman 
himself had experimented a little ia blank verse. (See infra y pp. 19-ao.) 


Would such a fact as this cause your sadness? Then be sad. 
For there is a palace, to which the courts of the most sumptuous 
kings are but a frivolous patch, and, though it is always waiting 
for them, not one in thousands of its owners ever enters there 
with any genuine sense of its grandeur and glory. 

To the artist, I say, has been given the command to go forth 
into all the world and preach the gospel of beauty. The 
perfect man is the perfect artist, and it cannot be other- 
wise. 1 For in the much that has been said of Nature and Art 
there is mostly the absurd error of considering the two as dis- 
tinct. Rousseau, himself, in reality one of the most genuine 
artists, starting from his false point, ran into his beautiful en- 
comiums upon nature and his foolish sarcasms upon art. To 
think of what happened when that restless and daring spirit 
ceased to animate one of the noblest apostles of democracy, is 
itself answer enough to all he ever said in condemnation of art. 
The shadows from the west were growing longer, as Rousseau, 
at the close of a beautiful summer day, felt death upon him. 
"Let me behold once more the glorious setting sun," was his 
last request. With his eyes turned toward the more than im- 
perial pomp and with the soft and pure harmonies of nature 
around him, his wild and sorrowful life came to an end, and he 
departed peacefully and happily. Do you think Rousseau 
would have passionately enjoyed the sunset, those clouds, the 
beauty, and the natural graces there, had such things as art 
and artists never existed ? Was not his death made happier than 
his life, by what he so often ridiculed in life ? 

Nay, may not death itself, through the prevalence of a more 
artistic feeling among the people, be shorn of many of its 
frightful and ghastly features? In the temple of the Greeks, 
Death and his brother Sleep, were depicted as beautiful youths 
reposing in the arms of Night. At other times Death was rep- 
resented as a graceful form, with calm but drooping eyes, his 
feet crossed and his arms leaning on an inverted torch. Such 
were the soothing and solemnly placed influences which true 

*This is not the place to enter in detail into a study of Whitman's indebtedness to 
Emerson; but inasmuch as the date and the extent of that indebtedness have been 
matters of dispute, it is necessary here to call attention to the close kinship between the 
ideas and the treatment of this address and Emerson's earlier work. This essay seems to 
have been written under the inspiration, first, of the lecture referred to, and second, 
of "The American Scholar" and "The Divinity School Address," the artist being sub- 
stituted for the scholar without affecting the Emersonian nature-philosophy in the least. 
Even the anecdote of the "idle Persian," though it may not have come through Emerson, 
reads like a prose " Rhodora." Cf. infra, p. 132. 


art, identical with a perception of the beauty that there is in 
all the ordinations as well as all the works of Nature, cast 
over the last fearful thrill of those olden days. Was it not 
better so? Or is it better to have before us the idea of our 
dissolution, typified by the spectral horror upon the pale horse, 
by a grinning skeleton or a mouldering skull ? 

The beautiful artist principle sanctifies that community 
which is pervaded by it. A halo surrounds forever that nation. 
— There have been nations more warlike than the Greeks. 
Germany has been and is more intellectual. Inventions, 
physical comforts, wealth and enterprize are prodigiously 
greater in all civilized nations now than they were among the 
countrymen of Alcibiades and Plato. But never was there 
such an artistic race. 

At a neighboring city, the other evening was given, by a 
lecturer, 1 a beautiful description of this character, making 
it a model that few in these days would think of successfully 
copying. The Greek form, he described as perfect, the mind 
well cultivated as to those things which are useful and pleasing; 
the man, as familiar with the history of his country, not seeking 
office for his emoluments or dignity, believing that no office 
confers dignity upon him who bears it, but that the true dignity 
of office arises from the character of the man who holds it, and 
the manner in which he administers it. He is not elated with 
honors or discomposed with ill success, — pursues his course 
with firmness, yet with moderation; and seeks not honors or 
profit for the services rendered his country, which he loves better 
than himself. He is neither penurious nor extravagant; does 
not court the rich nor stand aloof from the poor. He can appre- 
ciate excellence whether clothed in the apparel of the affluent 
or of the indigent; is no respector of persons, remembering that 
manly worth cannot be monopolized by any circle of society. 
He can mingle in festive scenes, and seek in them the feasts of 
reason as well as the flow of soul; 2 his entertainments are pre- 

1 This was perhaps Daniel Huntington's address before the American Artists' Associa- 
tion, in New York, on the evening of March n. His subject was "Christian Art," 
and the lecture was repeated for the benefit of the public on March 25. Or Whitman 
might have had in mind Parke Godwin's lecture on "The Philosophy of Art," delivered 
before the Academy of Design on March 10. The press reports that I have found are 
too scanty to make identification easy. 

2 Cy. Pope's "The feast of reason and the flow of soul" ("The First Satire of the 
Second Book of Horace," 1. 128.) 


pared for the intellect as well as the physical appetite. The 
lyre and song, the harp and recital of heroic verse — sculpture, 
painting, music, poetry, as well as grave philosophical dis- 
course — each in its turn becomes the channel of a refined and ele- 
vated pleasure. As a soldier, he acts upon the principle that 
"thrice is he armed who has his quarrel just," 1 and appeals to 
force only when negotiations fail, but then with terrific energy. 
He counts no sacrifice too great for his country. Dying, his 
proudest boast is, that "no Athenian, through his means, ever 
had cause to put on mourning." 

Yes, distracted by frippery, cant, and vulgar selfishness — 
sick even of the "intelligence of the age" — it refreshes the soul 
to bring up again one of that glorious and manly and beautiful 
nation, with his sandals, his flowing drapery, his noble and 
natural attitudes and the serene composure of his features. Im- 
agination loves to dwell there, revels there, and will not turn 
away. There the artist appetite is gratified; and there all ages 
have loved to turn as to one of the most perfect ideals of man. 

The orthodox specimen of the man of the present time, ap- 
proved of public opinion and the tailor, stands he under the 
glance of art as stately? His contempt for all there is in the 
world, except money can be made of it; 2 his utter vacuity of 
anything more important to him as a man than success in 
"business," — his religion what is written down in the books, or 
preached to him as he sits in his rich pew, by one whom he pays 
a round sum, and thinks it a bargain, — his only interest in af- 
fairs of state, getting offices or jobs for himself or someone who 
pays him — so much for some points of his character. 

Then see him in all the perfection of fashionable tailordom — 
the tight boot with the high heel; the trousers, big at the ankle, 
on some rule inverting the ordinary ones of grace; the long 
large cuffs, and thick stiff collar of his coat — the swallow-tailed 
coat, on which dancing masters are inexorable; the neck swathed 
in many bands, giving support to the modern high and pointed 
shirt collar, that fearful sight to an approaching enemy — the 
modern shirt collar, bold as Columbus, stretching off into the 
unknown distance — and then to crown all, the fashionable hat, 
before which language has nothing to say, because sight is the 
only thing that can begin to do it justice — and we have indeed 
a model for the sculptor. Think of it; a piece of Italian marble, 

iC/."Thrice is he arm'd that hath his quarrel just" ("King Henry VI," Pt. 2, III, 2). 
2 C/. infra, pp. 37-39, iii, 123-125; post, II, p. 63, 67. 


chiselled away till it gets to the shape of all this, hat included, 
and then put safely under storage as our contribution to the 
future ages, taste for our artistical proportion, grace, and har- 
mony of form. 1 

I think of few heroic actions which cannot be traced to the 
artistical impulse. He who does great deeds, does them from 
his sensitiveness to moral beauty. Such men are not merely 
artists, they are artistic material. Washington in some great 
crisis, Lawrence in the bloody deck of the Chesapeake, Mary 
Stewart 2 at the block, Kossuth in captivity and Mazzini in exile, 
— all great rebels and innovators, especially if their intellectual 
majesty bears itself out with calmness amid popular odium or 
circumstances of cruelty and an infliction of suffering, exhibit 
the highest phases of the artistic spirit. A sublime moral beauty 
is present to them, and they realize them. It may be almost 
said to emanate from them. The painter, the sculptor, the poet 
express heroic beauty better in description; for description is 
their trade, and they have learned it. But the others are 
heroic beauty, the best beloved of art. 

Talk not so much, then, young artist, of the great old masters, 
who but painted and chiselled. Study not only their produc- 
tions. There is a still better, higher school for him who 
would kindle his fire with coal from the altar of the loftiest 
and purest art. It is the school of all grand actions and grand 
virtues, of heroism, of the death of captives and martyrs — of 
all the mighty deeds written in the pages of history — deeds of 
daring, and enthusiasm, and devotion, and fortitude. Read 
well the death of Socrates, and of a greater than Socrates. Read 
how slaves have battled against their oppressors — how the 
bullets of tyrants have, since the first king ruled, never been 
able to put down the unquenchable thirst of man for his rights. 

In the sunny peninsula where Art was transplanted from 
Greece and, generations afterward, flourished into new life, we 
even now see the growth that is to be expected among a people 
pervaded by love and appreciation of beauty. In Naples, in 
Rome, in Venice, that ardor for liberty which is a constituent 

l Cf. infra, pp. 162-163. 

»When Whitman selected a fragment of this speech as one of the "Pieces in Early 
Youth" which he preserved in his "Complete Prose" (pp. 371-372), he not only cor- 
rected this error in spelling, but otherwise altered and improved this paragraph and the 
following one. Probably he possessed at that time only a stray page of the manuscript 
for certainly he could have selected few things from his writings before 1855 which better 
deserved to be preserved entire than this speech. 


part of all well developed artists and without which a man can- 
not be such, has had a struggle — a hot and baffled one. The 
inexplicable destinies have shaped it so. The dead lie in 
their graves; but their august and beautiful enthusiasm is not 
dead: — 

Those corpses of young men, 

Those martyrs that hung from the gibbets, 

Those hearts pierced by the gray lead, 

Cold and motionless as they seem, 

Live elsewhere with undying vitality; 

They live in other young men, O kings, 

They live in brothers again ready to defy you; 

They were purified by death, 

They were taught and exalted. 

Not a grave of those slaughtered ones, 

But is growing its seed of freedom, 

In its turn to bear seed, 

Which the winds shall carry afar and re-sow, 

And the rain nourish. 

Not a disembodied spirit 

Can the weapons of tyrants let loose, 

But it shall stalk invisibly over the earth, 

Whispering, counseling, cautioning. 1 

I conclude here. — As there can be no true Artist, without a 
glowing thought for freedom, so freedom pays the artist back 
again many fold, and under her umbrage Art must sooner or 
later tower to its loftiest and most perfect proportions. 


[No. i] 2 

Greenport, L. I., June 25. 

The Place and Its Surroundings 

Swarming and multitudinous as the population of the city 
still is, there are many thousands of its usual inhabitants now 
absent in the country. Some are sent away by the hot weather, 

1 Quoted from Whitman's own early free-verse poem, " Resurgemus," (infra, pp.27-30). 

3 From the New York Evening Post, June 27, 1851. 

This letter is signed "N," perhaps a typographical error. 


many by "the prevailing custom"; others again by desire 
for change. 

Having neither the funds nor disposition to pass my little 
term of ruralizing at the fashionable baths, or watering places, 
I am staying awhile down here at Greenport, the eastern 
point of the Long Island Railroad. That is, my lodging is 
at Greenport; but, in truth, I "circulate" in all directions 

Greenport is celebrated for its good harbor, its salt water, 
and its fish. The kind of the latter now most plentiful is the 
poggy (sometimes misspelt porgie 1 ). It is a good fish, and 
easily caught. The black fish are just beginning to come in. 
The blue fish, however, are the most delicious, to my taste. 
Cooked while perfectly fresh, and not salted till fried, or broiled, 
they are fit for the most refined epicure. 

The fish in Peconic Bay and its neighborhood are not quite 
so abundant as last season. 2 Still, there are enough to reward 
the labor of the sportsmen. 

How I Amuse Myself 

The best amusements in a country place, by the salt water, 
are the cheapest. Generally, the one who takes the most 
trouble to obtain pleasure, gets the least, or that which is most 

Now, for instance, the fields, the waters, the trees, the 
interesting specimens of humanity to be scared up in all 
quarters of this diggins — all are, for me, ministers to entertain- 

Can there be any thing of the old gossip in my composition ? 
For I hugely like to accost the originals I see all around me, 
and to set them agoing about themselves and their neighbors 
near by. It is more refreshing than a comedy at any of the 
New York theatres. The very style of their talk is a treat. 

Bathing in this clear, pure, salt water, twice every day, 
is one of my best pleasures. Generally the water is so clear 
that you can see to a considerable depth. I must have the 

1 Whitman is, of course, in error; porgie is the more common spelling, though poggy 
is also correct. 

'If this statement were based on Whitman's personal experience, it would establish 
definitely where he was during the summer of 1850, a matter concerning which bi- 
ography is as yet largely in the dark. 


bump of "aquativeness" 1 large; dear to me is a souse in the 
waves. Dear, oh, dear to me is Coney Island! Rockaway, too, 
and many other parts of sea-girt Paumanok. 

Some Folks' Way of "Going in the Country" 

Now all the public houses, and not a few of the private 
houses, in this section of Long Island, are beginning to be filled 
with boarders — men, women, and children — particularly the 
latter. It is a pity that these folks don't enjoy themselves in 
a more free and easy manner. They evidently preserve all the 
ceremoniousness of the city — dress regularly for dinner, fear to 
brown their faces with the sun, or wet their shoes with the 
dew, or let the wind derange the well sleeked precision of their 

Indeed, for all the good they get, they might just as well 
remain in a New York or Brooklyn boarding-house; except 
that they are a little more crowded here, perhaps. They hardly 
derive even the benefit of the pure air, for they remain in the 
house nearly all day. 

I am convinced that there are really very few people who know 
how to enjoy the country, either for its land or water accommo- 
dations. Not many even of its permanent residents do. 

Gentility in Country Boarding Houses 

While I am upon such matters, let me give a word of advice 
to those who conduct the country boarding houses. People 
don't so much want any attempts at gentility in your places; 
to which they ought to come for relief from the glare and stiff- 
ness of the city. We folks from the region of pavements are 
too much used to pianos, fashionable carpets, mahogany chairs, 
to be seriously impressed by them when we go in the country. 
We would as leave, during the hot weather, when we stay among 
you, even be without carpets, pianos and flummery. Only 
let us have plenty of cleanliness, water by the wholesale, and 
abundance of the rich fresh fare of your country dairy, and 
country gardens. 

l A humorous reference to the new science of phrenology, as it was then called, by 
which Whitman was really much impressed, having had his own head analyzed in detail. 

See " In Re Walt Whitman," p. 25. It was from the terminology of the phrenologists 
that Whitman selected a word to denote the manly friendship which inspires the "Cala> 
mus" poems — "adhesiveness." 


[No. 2]1 

Greenport, L. I., June 28th. 
A Village With a New Name 

The turnpike on the peninsula of which Orient, (formerly 
Oysterponds,) is the eastern point, is a pleasant and thrifty 
looking road. It is laid quite thickly with farm cottages, none 
of them very grand in their appearance; but then there are 
hardly any that seem remarkably mean, either. 

One new and costly house, on the north side of the turnpike, 
is the residence of Dr. Lord, formerly member of Congress, and 
the owner of large tracts of land here. 

Strolling on through the neighborhood, I came to a thicker 
collection of houses, formerly known as Rocky Point, but now 
christened with the more romantic appellation of "Marion." 

Very great confusion arises on Long Island, from the numer- 
osity of names, belonging to one and the same place. Hardly 
one fourth of the neighborhoods retain the same names for 
twenty years in succession! Letters, packages, and even trav- 
ellers are constantly getting lost, through this unfortunate pro- 

I Make the Acquaintance of an Old Fellow 

As I was passing the "store" at Marion, I was accosted by an 
old fellow, with a pipe in his mouth, and a clam-basket and hoe 
in his hands. He had evidently put a dram or two into his 
stomach, more than it could cleverly stand; but it probably 
made him better company than he would have been without the 

I must give you a description of him, for I responded to his 
salute and we walked on a way together. 

His trousers were originally bright blue homespun, but they 
had long since seen their good times, and were now variegated 
with patches of many colors — particularly about the "seat," 
which was of the style that tailors call "baggy." His vest was 
of a spotted dirt color, and of a cut like those you see worn 

> From the New York Evening Post, June 28, 1851. 

This letter and that on pp. 255-259 (post, I) were signed "Paumanok." Cf. "Complete 
Prose," p. 335; infra, p. 180, note 2; post, II, 277-278. 


by Turkish slaves, or by "supes" in a melo-drama, at the 
Bowery Theatre. Its points hung down in front. The figure 
of the old man was short, squat and round-shouldered, but of 
Herculean bone and muscle. His hair was not very gray, and 
he showed palpable signs of strength. 

But his hat! It was a hat which I am sorry now I did not 
buy up and present to one of the Broadway "merchants" in 
that line, or to the eating house near the Fulton ferry, whose 
window has such amusing curiosities. It was a truly wonder- 
ful hat! It was not a large hat; neither could it have been called 
a small hat. It was unquestionably a very old hat, however. 
It had probably stood the storms of many winters, and the sun 
of many summers. Yet it held itself tolerably erect, with 
various undulations and depressions in its surface; but an un- 
fortunate paucity of brim. True, there was an apology for a 
brim, but it was a very narrow apology. It was laughable 
to see that hat! 

While the old man was telling us that he owned a certain 
windmill, which we were then and there passing, and that he 
was now on his way to get a basket of soft clams, for bait to catch 
fish, a waggon came along, in which he was furnished with a 
ride, and so left us. 

The Road — The Bridge — The Fish 

The various windows of Rocky Point doubtless exhibit a 
flitting array of heads on all occasions of strangers passing. 
It was, therefore, the case, that our walk, for a while, was quite 
a public passage. Indeed, had there been a little hurrahing, we 
might, (my companion and I,) have fancied ourselves some dis- 
tinguished people, taking the honors. 

A bend in the road brought us to an old mill, on the broad 
railing of whose bridge I sat down to rest. Underneath, as I 
leaned over, I saw in the stream myriads of little fish endeav- 
oring to get up, but balked by an obstruction, and apparently 
in council, as if at a loss what to do. The water was as clear 
as glass. 

Directly two or three large eels crawled lazily along, wriggling 
their tails, and sucking up whatever they found on the bottom. 
Then came a couple of little black fish; after which a real big 
one, twenty inches long, opening his great white mouth, and 
behaving in a very hoggish manner. Also, there were crabs, and 
divers small fry. 


Had I possessed a hook and line, there is no telling what feats 
might have been performed. 

A couple of rods from the shore, and near at hand, was the old 
gentleman, with the remarkable hat; he had arrived before us, 
and was busily engaged with his hoe, digging a basket of soft 
clams, "for bait," as he said. He procured quite a mess in 
fifteen minutes, and then brought them up, and sat down on 
the bridge by me, to rest himself. 

A Colloquy — "Aunt Rebby" 

Lighting his pipe very deliberately, he proceeded to catechise 
me as to my name, birth-place, and lineage — where I was from 
last, where I was staying, what my occupation was, and so on. 
Having satisfied himself on these important points, I thought 
it no more than fair to return the compliment in kind, and so 
pitched into him. 

He was born on the spot where he now lived; that very same 
Rocky Point. He was sixty-seven years old. For twenty 
years he had kept a butcher's stall in Fly Market, in New York, 
and left that business to move back on the "old homestead." 

He volunteered the information that he was a Universalist in 
his religious belief, and asked my opinion upon the merits of 
the preachers of that faith, Mr. Chapin, Mr. Thayer, Mr. Balch, 
and others. He also commenced what he probably intended for 
a religious argument; and there was no other way than for me to 
stop him off, by direct inquiries into the state of his family 
and his real estate. 

He was "well off" in both respects, possessing a farm of 
over a hundred acres, running from the turnpike to the 
Sound, and being the father of numerous sons and daughters. 
He expatiated on the merits of his land at great length; and 
was just going into those of his bodily offspring, when our con- 
fab was fated to receive a sudden interruption. For at this 
moment came along an old woman with a little tin kettle in her 

"Aunt Rebby," at once exclaimed the old gentleman, "don't 
you know me ? " 

But Aunt Rebby seemed oblivious. 

"Is it possible you don't know me? Why we've bussed one 
another many a time in our young days!" 

A new light broke upon the dim eyes of the old dame. 


"Why Uncle Dan'l!" cried she, "can this be you?" 

Uncle Dan'l averred that it wasn't any body else. And then 
ensued a long gossip, of which I was the edified and much- 
amused hearer. They had not met each other, it seems, for 
years, and there needed to be a long interchange of news. 

"What a fine mess of clams you've got," said the old lady. 

"Yes," responded Uncle Dan'l. 

"But I," rejoined the old lady, in a mournful voice — "I have 
no body to dig clams for me now." 

"No, I s'pose not," said the other composedly; "your boys 
are all gone now." 

Supposing that the "boys" had emigrated to California, or 
married and moved off, I ventured an inquiry as to where they 
had gone. 

Three young men, all the sons of the old woman, had died of 
consumption. The last was buried only a short time before. 

Old times were talked of. Aunt Rebby expressed it as her 
positive opinion that the young folks of the present day don't 
enjoy half as much fun as the young folks of fifty years ago, and a 
little longer, did. She was seventy years old, and remembered 
the days of General Washington. Those were jovial times, but 
now "it was all pride, fashion and ceremony." 

At the mention of pride, Uncle Dan'l interrupted her with an 
invitation to look at him and his apparel, and say whether he 
furnished any exhibition of that vice. 

We Return Homeward 

The afternoon being now pretty far advanced, Aunt Rebby 
wended on her way towards the east; and the old man, with I 
and my companion, turned our courses westward. The old 
fellow shouldered his heavy basket, which dripped down his 

I made him tell me the personal history of the affairs of each 
family, as we passed the houses on our way. But, although I 
was much amused and interested with the narration, perhaps 
your readers wouldn't be, and so I pass it by. 

About twenty-eight months ago, the old man's two eldest 
sons, the one of 33, the other 24 years of age, had sailed off 
in the new and fine sloop "Long Island," bound for some port 
nearly down to Florida. He had never heard from them since. 
They were lost in a terrible storm that came up while they 


were out at sea. They owned half the sloop, which was worth 

When we arrived at the old fellow's house, he invited us in 
and treated us to good berries. And so, at sundown, we had a 
nice cool walk of three miles, back to our quarters. 


With all the vaunted beauty and wholesomeness of Brook- 
lyn, as a place of residence, our having no water better than 
pump-water, is enough to put us down below twenty other 
places, otherwise every way inferior to us. Reader, have you 
ever thought what this pump stuff really is? 

Imagine all the accumulations of filth in a great city — not 
merely the slops and rottenness thrown in the streets and by- 
ways (and never thoroughly carried away) — but the number- 
less privies, cess-pools, sinks and gulches of abomination — the 
perpetual replenishing of all this mass of effete matter — the 
unnameable and immeasurable dirt that is ever, ever, ever fil- 
tered into the earth, through its myriad pores, and which as 
surely finds its way to the neighborhood of pump-water, and 
into pump-water, as that a drop of poison put in one part of 
the vascular system, gets into the whole system. Think of a 
drink, compounded of all these, and hardly one part of it clear, 
pure, and natural. Think of this delectable mixture being 
daily and hourly taken into our stomachs, our veins, our 

The report of the Committee of Inquiry who recommended 
the Croton Aqueduct (a far nobler token for New York than 
even her steamships, with the Trinity Churches to boot,) 
showed enough facts, and demonstrated realities coming home 
to the experience of every body who drinks water, to horrify 
the strongest stomach that ever existed within human ribs! I 
would have some Brooklyn paper get, and reprint, the essential 
parts of that report. 8 

Every few months there is much ados about swill-milk; (and 

»This is a signed article in the Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, June 28, 1851. Whitman 
prided himself on the efforts he had put forth to secure for Brooklyn a good system of 
water works (see "Diary in Canada," pp. 64-65; Ostrander, loc. cit, II, p. 89). Whit- 
man's brother Jeff was employed by " Chief Kirkwood " in the survey for and the con- 
struction of the Brooklyn water works (see " Complete Prose," p. 513). 

•As Whitman himself had done in the Eagle, July 1, 1846. 


the more that manufacture is shown up the better). And every 
body knows that rum, in all its varieties, is the declared foe of a 
large class of our people; and, for our part, the more they cry 
aloud and belabor the enemy, the better luck I wish them. 
But rum and bad milk are not as nasty as city pump-water; 
which is truly the most stinking and villainous liquid known, 
upon land or sea. 

This hot weather, if you let a pail of pump-water stand a 
couple of hours, any sensitive nose must turn away, when the 
mouth under it drinks thereof. 1 

An abundant supply of clean, sweet, soft, wholesome water! 
I can conceive of no physical comfort more important. It is not 
only wanted for drinking, but for bathing, washing, cooking, 
sprinkling and cleaning streets, and so on. It is wanted to save 
this half-wooden city from ruinous conflagrations. Say, you 
heroic dare-devils who man the engines, how often have you 
been balked and dismayed, less by the furious flames than by 
the absence of water to put them out? I have still more to 
say another time. 2 


[No. 3 Y 

Brooklyn, August II. 

The hot day 4 was over at last; though the opera at Castle 
Garden did not commence till eight; and even had it not been 
leisure enough and to spare, was there any escape from those 
imperial commands in the west? So with wool-hat crushed in 
my hand behind me, for the sundown breezes felt good, there 
on old " Clover Hill, " (modernized Brooklyn Heights,) I took my 
time, and expanded to the glory spread over heaven and earth. 

Sails of sloops bellied gracefully upon the river, with mellower 
light and deepened shadows. And the dark and glistening 
water formed an undertone to the play of vehement color above. 

* Unfortunately, Whitman does not explain how this feat is to be accomplished. 

*I can find no other signed articles on the subject in the Advertizer, nor any other 
that is clearly Whitman's; but the subject was frequently aired during his editorship 
of the Brooklyn Daily Times. 

From the New York Evening Post, August 14, 18 51. 

It was reprinted, in part, in my article "Walt Whitman at Thirty-One" in the New 
York Evening Post Book Review, Saturday, June 26, 1920. 

*"La Favorita" was produced at the Castle Garden on Friday evening, August 8. 


Rapidly, an insatiable greediness grew within me for brighter 
and stronger hues; oh, brighter and stronger still. It seemed 
as if all that the eye could bear, were unequal to the fierce vo- 
racity of my soul for intense, glowing color. 

And yet there were the most choice and fervid fires of the 
sunset, in their brilliancy and richness almost terrible. 

Have not you, too, at such a time, known this thirst of the 
eye? Have not you, in like manner, while listening to the 
well-played music of some band like Maretzek's, 1 felt an over- 
whelming desire for measureless sound — a sublime orchestra 
of a myriad orchestras — a colossal volume of harmony, in which 
the thunder might roll in its proper place; and above it, the vast, 
pure Tenor, — identity of the Creative Power itself — rising 
through the universe, until the boundless and unspeakable ca- 
pacities of that mystery, the human soul, should be filled to 
the uttermost, and the problem of human cravingness be satis- 
fied and destroyed? 2 

Of this sort are the promptings of good music upon me. 
How is it possible, that among the performers there, with their 
instruments, are some who can jest, and giggle, and look flip- 
pantly over the house meanwhile? And even good singers 
upon the stage beyond them, you may see presently, who 
will mar their parts with quizzing and ill-timed smiles, and looks 
of curiosity at the amount of their audience. 

Come, I will not talk to you as to one of the superficial crowd 
who saunter here because it is a fashion; who take opera glasses 
with them, and make you sick with shallow words, upon the 
sublimest and most spiritual of the arts. I will trust you 
with confidence; I will divulge secrets. 

The delicious music of "the Favorite," is upon us. Grad- 
ually, we see not this huge ampitheatre, nor the cropped heads 
and shaved faces of the men; nor coal-skuttle bonnets; nor hear 
the rattle of fans, nor even the ill-bred chatter. We see the 
groves of a Spanish convent, and the procession of monks; we 
hear the chant, now dim and faint, then swelling loudly, and then 
again dying away among the trees. The aged Superior and 
the young Fernando, we see. In answer to the old man's re- 
bukes and questions, we hear the story of love. 

1 Max Maretzek, manager of the Opera House in New York, and author of " Crotchets 
and Quavers, or Revelations of an Opera Manager in America," 1855. 

2 Cf. post, II, p. 85. 


Those fresh vigorous tones of Bettini! — I have often wished 
to know this man, for a minute, that I might tell him how much 
of the highest order of pleasure he has conferred upon me. 
His voice has often affected me to tears. Its clear, firm, won- 
derfully exalting notes, filling and expanding away; dwelling like 
a poised lark up in heaven; have made my very soul tremble. — 
Critics talk of others who are more perfectly artistical — yes, as 
the well-shaped marble is artistical. But the singing of this man 
has breathing blood within it; the living soul, of which the 
lower stage they call art, is but the shell and sham. 1 

Yes, let me dwell a moment here. After travelling through 
the fifteen years' display in this city, of musical celebrities, 
from Mrs. Austin 2 up to Jenny Lind, 3 from Old Bull 4 on to 
conductor Benedict, 5 with much fair enjoyment of the talent of 
all; none have thoroughly satisfied, overwhelmed me, but this 
man. Never before did I realize what an indescribable volume 
of delight the recesses of the soul can bear from the sound of the 
honied perfection of the human voice. The manly voice it 
must be, too. The female organ, however curious and high, 
is but as the pleasant moonlight. 

The Swedish Swan, 6 with all her blandishments, never touched 
my heart in the least. I wondered at so much vocal dexterity; 
and indeed they were all very pretty, those leaps and double 
somersets. But even in the grandest religious airs, genuine 
masterpieces as they are, of the German composers, executed 
by this strangely overpraised woman in perfect scientific style, 
let critics say what they like, it was a failure; for there was a 
vacuum in the head of the performance. Beauty pervaded it 
no doubt, and that of a high order. It was the beauty of Adam 
before God breathed into his nostrils. 

Let us return to Balthazar, and his prophetic announcements. 
"Ah, Fernando," we hear him say, "this magnificent world, 
which allures you, is deceptive and false. The angel you now 

*Cf. infra, pp. 104-106. 

*A grand opera singer of the early i83o's. 

'Jenny Lind took New York by storm with her singing at the Castle Garden in 1850, 
under the management of P. T. Barnum. 

«01e Bornemann Bull (1810-1880), a Norwegian violinist famous for his technical 
skill, who came to America five times, and who, for a short period in 1855, managed the 
New York Academy of Music. 

"Sir Julius Benedict (1 804-1 885), a prominent operatic conductor from London, who 
conducted for Jenny Lind on her American tours. 

6 The "Swedish nightingale," Jenny Lind. (Cf. " Complete Prose," p. 516.) 


love may prove treacherous. Yes, tossed by tempests, you will 
gladly seek again this haven of peace." 

I always thought the plot of the "Favorite" a peculiarly 
well-proportioned and charming story. It is a type of the ex- 
perience of the human kind, and, like Shakspeare's dramas, 
its moral is world-wide. 

Fernando, young, enthusiastic, full of manly vigor, and at the 
same time of tenderness, trusted and loved a beautiful unknown 
woman. She, Leonara [Leonora], though the favorite and mis- 
tress of the king, returned the young man's love. Thus, he 
would not complete the burial of himself among the priesthood. 
He left the convent, and having received from Leonara a com- 
mission of rank in the army, joined the camp, and rendered such 
important services, that the king, in person, thanked him before 
the court. He, however, abruptly discovered the amour be- 
tween his favorite and the young officer. 

The king's own love was faithful, but the Papal court inter- 
fered, and Leonara confessing her genuine attachment to Fer- 
nando, the royal consent sealed their marriage. Previously 
to this, the disgraced woman had sent her lover a true account 
of herself; but it was intercepted, and Fernando immediately 
afterwards found that his idol was the cast-off mistress of the 

All the indignant passions of his soul then broke forth. He 
upbraided the king with such perfidy, tore the golden order 
from his neck, broke his sword, and cast it at the monarch's 
feet, and retired in a fury of sorrow and disappointment, back 
into the shadows from which he had sallied forth into the world. 

Now we approach the close of the legend. We see again 
the dark groves of the convent. Up through the venerable trees 
peal the strains of the chanting voices. Oh, sweet music of 
Donizetti, how can men hesitate what rank to give you ! 

With his pale face at the foot of the cross kneels the returned 
novice, his breast filled with a devouring anguish, his eyes 
showing the death that has fallen upon his soul. The strains of 
death, too, come plaintively from his lips. Never before did 
you hear such wonderful gushing sorrow, poured forth like ebb- 
ing blood, from a murdered heart. Is it for peace he prays with 
that appealing passion? Is it the story of his own sad wreck he 

Listen. Pure and vast, that voice now rises, as on clouds, to 
the heaven where it claims audience. Now, firm and unbroken, 


it spreads like an ocean around us. Ah, welcome that I know 
not the mere language of the earthly words in which the melody 
is embodied; as all words are mean before the language of 
true music. 

Thanks, great artist. For one, at least, it is no extravagance 
to say, you have justified his ideal of the loftiest of the arts. 
Thanks, limner of the spirit of life, and hope and peace; of the 
red fire of passion, the cavernous vacancy of despair, and the 
black pall of the grave. 

I write as I feel; and I feel that there are not a few who will 
pronounce a Yes to my own confession. 


Memorial in Behalf of a Freer Municipal Government, 
and Against Sunday Restrictions 

To the Common Council and Mayor of the City of Brooklyn: 

With great respect, I present you the following considerations 
on the subject of Sunday Restrictions, and Municipal Policy; 
and ask, in behalf of myself and many other citizens, the per- 
manent suspension of the clause against running the City 
Railcars every seventh day; and that all ordinances and move- 
ments to compel, by arrests, imprisonments and fines, the re- 
ligious observance of the Sabbath, be repealed and desisted from; 
and, in general terms, that the government of Brooklyn take a 
more expanded scale and more uniformity and spirit. 

»From the Brooklyn Evening Star, October 20, 1854. Reprinted in the Conservator, 
November, 1903, Vol. XIV, p. 135. 

The editor of the Star prefaced the memorial with these remarks: "We have received 
from their author, Walter Whitman, a copy of his memorial to the Common Council and 
Mayor, on some general and some special topics. As this is a time when the matters 
it treats of are attracting considerable attention, and this paper desires to give a full 
field for discussion, we lay the memorial before our readers, for them to judge for them- 

The memorial itself was presented to the Council on October 16 by Alderman Fowler. 
Apparently no action was taken on it. 

The present memorial records no particular development in Whitman's conception 
of the proper function of government, being rather an application of political theories 
set forth some seven years before (see infra, pp. 166-168); but, appearing in 1854, it 
has a special significance in proving that its author was not so intent upon the creation 
of the poetry of democracy to be published the following year as himself to neglect what 
he considered the rights and duties of a citizen of a democratic country. Cf. "Song of 
the Broad-Axe," 1856, "Leaves of Grass," 1917, 1, 228-230. 

It is highly probable that an article in the Brooklyn Daily Times (March 14, 1857) 
arguing for Sunday cars and signed "W. W." was also written by Whitman. But in 
such a collection as this, one essay must stand for both. 


The security, peace, and decorum of the City are in charge 
of the authorities at all times, and are never to be intermitted 
any day of the week or year. It is likewise proper that they 
protect to every individual and religious congregation his or its 
right to worship, reasonably free from any noise or molestation. 

The mere shutting off from the general body of the citizens 
the popular and cheap conveyance of the City Railroads, the 
very day when experience proves they want it most, and the 
obstinate direction of the whole executive and police force of 
Brooklyn into a contest with the keepers of public houses, news 
depots, cigar shops, bakeries, confectionary and eating saloons, 
and other places, whether they shall open or close on Sunday, 
are not in themselves matters of all engrossing importance. 
The stoppage of the Railcars causes much vexation and weari- 
ness to many families, especially in any communication to and 
from East Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, New 
Brooklyn, Bedford and Greenwood; and both stoppages do no 
earthly good. But beneath this the blunder rises from some- 
thing deeper. — These restrictions are part of a radical mis- 
take about the policy and lawful power of an American City 

No attempts of the sort can be so trivial, but they lead to 
the discussion of principles. The true American doctrine is not 
that the legislative assemblage of the City or State or Nation 
is possessed of total wisdom and guardianship over the people, 
and can entertain any proposition, and try it on just when and 
how they like. The office of Alderman or Mayor or Legislator 
is strictly the office of an agent. This agent is faithfully and 
industriously to perform a few plainly written and specified 
duties. He is not so continually to go meddling with the 
master's personal affairs or morals. Such is the American doc- 
trine, and the doctrine of common sense. 1 

Shallow people, possessed with zeal for any particular cause, 
make it a great merit to run to and fro after special prohibitions 
that shall fix the case, and emasculate sin out of our houses and 
streets. Alas, gentlemen, the civilized world has been over- 
whelmed with prohibitions for many hundred years. We do 
not want prohibitions. What is always wanted,, is a few strong- 

1 This is an early statement of the doctrine "Resist much, obey little" which Whitman 
shared with Emerson and, of course, with the States' Rights party as well. Cf. his utter- 
ances on slavery and free-soil. Cf. also the poems " Poem of Remembrance for a Girl 
or a Boy of These States" (in McKay Edition, 1900, pp. 510-51 1; first published in 
1856) and "To the States" (1917 Edition, I, p. 10). 


handed, big-brained, practical, honest men, at the head of 

The true friends of the Sabbath and of its purifying and ele- 
vating influences, and of the many excellent physical and other 
reforms that mark the present age, are not necessarily those who 
complacently put themselves forward, and seek to carry the 
good through by penalties and stoppages, and arrests and fines. 

The true friends of elevation and reform are the friends of 
the fullest rational liberty. For there is this vital and anti- 
septic power in liberty, that it tends forever and ever to 
strengthen what is good and erase what is bad. 

For the City or State to become the overseer and dry nurse 
of a man, and coerce him, any further than before mentioned, 
into how he must behave himself, and when and whither he 
must travel, and by what conveyance, or what he shall be per- 
mitted to use or dispose of on certain days of the week, and 
what forced to disuse, would be to make a poor thing of a man. 
In such matters, the American sign-posts turn in the same di- 
rection for all grades of our government. The citizen must 
have room. He must learn to be so muscular and self-pos- 
sessed; to rely more on the restrictions of himself than any 
restrictions of statute books, or city ordinances, or police. 
This is the feeling that will make live men and superior women. 
This will make a great, athletic, spirited city, of noble and 
marked character, with a reputation for itself wherever rail- 
roads run, and ships sail, and newspapers and books are read. 

The old landmarks of the law, established and needed to 
preserve life, liberty and property, are always good, and never 
denied by any body. Beyond them, what the people actually 
wish of those they commission in office is, the direct perform- 
ance of a small number of distinct and incumbent duties, 
coming home to the necessity and benefit of all hands, and 
about which there is also no dispute. If those in office would 
do these duties, and do them well, it would take up their en- 
tire time, and give the public a satisfaction and pleasure they 
have never yet experienced. 

I have also, gentlemen, with perfect respect, to remind 
you, and through you to remind others, including those, whoever 
they may be, who desire to be your successors, or to hold any 
office, prominent or subordinate, in the City Government, of 
the stern demand, in all parts of this Republic, for a better, 
purer, more generous and comprehensive administration of the 


affairs of cities; a demand in which I, in common with the quite 
entire body of my fellow-citizens and fellow tax-payers of 
Brooklyn, cordially join. — We believe the mighty interests of 
so many people, and so much life and wealth, should be far 
less at the sport or dictation of caucuses and cabals. We 
would have nothing hoggish or exclusive. We wish to see 
municipal legislation not so much stifled by little ideas and 
aims, or the absence of ideas and aims. 1 

I would suggest to no locality a reconstruction too far off. 
I do not think so highly of what is to be done at the Capitols 
of Washington or Albany. Here, it is enough for us to attend 
to Brooklyn. There is indeed nowhere any better scope for 
practically exhibiting the full-sized American idea, than in a 
great, free, proud, American City. Most of our cities are 
huge aggregates of people, riches, and enterprise. The ave- 
nues, edifices and furniture are splendid; but what is that to 
splendor of character? To encourage the growth of trade and 
property is commendable; but our politics might also encour- 
age the forming of men of superior demeanor, and less shuf- 
fling and blowing. 

Marked as the size, numbers, elegance, and respectability 
of Brooklyn have become, a more lasting and solid glory of 
this or any community must always be in personal, and might 
be, in municipal qualities. Out of these in ancient times, a 
few thousand men made the names of their cities immortal. 
The free and haughty democracies of some of those old towns, 
not one third our size of population, rated themselves on 
equal terms with powerful kingdoms, and are preserved in 
literature, and the admiration of the earth. 

The Consolidated City of Brooklyn will commence well. 
Its start need not be clogged by anything embarrassing or 
lowering. Its beauty of site, cleanliness and health will never 
be surpassed by any city, old or new. Its historical remi- 
niscences are more interesting than those on the Continent it- 
self — the whole or any of them. Here was expended the keen- 
est anguish, and the larger half of the blood and death of the 
American Revolution. 

The citizens and government may well accept the spirit 
of its old days, and calculate our future on those large and 
patriotic premises. Early visited by the Dutch, our founders, 
who here planted their wholesome physical, political and 

1 Cf. post, II, pp. 252-153. 


moral peculiarities — soon interfused with Anglo-Saxon mind and 
tendency to expansion — cheerfully receiving all honest and in- 
dustrious comers, and resolving them into the general American 
type — the two ancient settlements of Brooklyn and Bush wick 
have sped onward, counting less than a hundred and fifty houses 
at the commencement of the present century, to what they now 
are, and to advance still faster under a combined impetus. 

Every thing about the new phases of these old towns sig- 
nifies their unavoidable and harmonious progress, merged into 
one, on the grandest scale. In the returns of inhabitants at 
the last authorized census, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Green- 
point and Bushwick together contained as many as either one 
of the three States of California, Delaware, or Rhode Island, 
and considerably more than either one of the first two. The 
young men are now walking among us who will see consoli- 
dated Brooklyn a vast community of a million souls, and not 
merely one of the leading cities of this republic, but one of the 
greatest on the globe. 1 It is time that its municipal character 
and views should be big and progressive in proportion. 

With its population of 200,000 as consolidated — with a 
stretch of eight miles between its northeastern and south- 
western points, and six miles between its northwestern and 
southeastern ones — with its majestic river, unsurpassed by 
any that flows — its imposing heights, its shores, wharves, ele- 
vations, and the diversified surface of its eighteen roomy 
wards — its popular schools, and scores upon scores of churches, 
many of them of the grandest style of architecture and orna- 
ment — its solemn, ample, and appropriate cemeteries, con- 
fessedly the first either in this country or abroad — its massive 
National Dock, and workshops and enginery for constructing 
the heaviest metaled government ships — the Atlantic Docks 
and wharves also, with their long range of storehouses, and 
their sheltered artificial harbor — the busy ship yards of the 
shores of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, employing many 
hundreds of American mechanics, the choicest breed for the 
greatest city — the numerous ferries running night and day — 
Washington Park, embracing* the breastworks of Fort Greene, 
and of the imperishable soil, the token of our dismal battle 
ground — the tracks of railroads, and their cars, and the inter- 
minable lines of conveniently laid out and flagged streets, lit 

»A prophecy which was repeated seven years later in the "Brooklyniana" (see post, 
II, pp. 252, 292), and which has, of course, been more than fulfilled. 


with gas at night — the hundreds and hundreds of first-class 
private dwellings, so rich in their display and sumptuousness, 
the thousands upon thousands of the comfortable homes of the 
free citizens and their families — and the wide spread fields of 
the outer wards, with our well ordered Public Institutions, 
Hospitals and Jails — and with the endless surroundings of the 
civilization of the nineteenth century in a land undisturbed 
by war or any threatening evil, Brooklyn may well be the choice 
and pride of her sons and daughters, and of all who are identi- 
fied with the place in any public capacity. 

I can think of hardly any office of a great city like consoli- 
dated Brooklyn but what is a dignified and responsible office, 
and no field for the narrowness of mere politicians or the end- 
less hangers on of parties. Neither legislative, executive or 
judicial, — neither the duties of finance, police, law, fires, water, 
ferries, health, record, assessments, streets, schools, hospitals, 
repairs, lands and places, or what not, can ever be attended 
to by inferior men in any other than an inferior and mean 
manner. Especially for the first citizen, or Mayor — especially 
for Aldermen — especially for the Police, every member of that 
body, without a single exception, Brooklyn ought to show well- 
developed men, the best gentlemen, no cowards, always sober, 
wide-awake and civil, proud of the town and devoted to it 
and realizing in it and in themselves the supreme merit of a 
high and courteous independence. Every one should be pos- 
sessed with the eternal American ideas of liberty, friendliness, 
amplitude and courage. It is nonsense to fancy such fine traits 
on a diffused and conspicuous scale, as President or Governor, 
and be without them for home consumption. The right sort 
of spirit will exemplify them just as much here directly at our 
doors, or the corners of the curbstones, or our City Hall. 

After all is said, however, the work of establishing and rais- 
ing the character of cities of course remains at last in their origi- 
nal capacity with the people themselves. Strictly speaking, 
when the proper time comes, it comes. Perhaps the citizens 
have no right to complain of being hampered and cheated and 
overtaxed and insulted; for they always hold the remedy in 
their own hands, and can apply it whenever they like. I am 
not the man to soft-soap the people, any more than I do 
office-holders; but this I say for them at all times that their 
very credulity and repeated confidence in others are organic 
signs of noble elements in the national character. 



Please don't feed 

the books. 

They don't need 


your crumbs 


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